VC Notes - A weekly word from Dr. LouAnn Woodward
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Friday, April 8, 2022

State Support for Statewide Impact

Good morning!

It’s been a great week for the Medical Center in ways that affect the entire UMMC family. We’ve all been heartened to see our COVID-19 inpatient numbers decreasing. Yesterday, we had zero patients with an active case in our adult and children’s hospitals. I imagine, it may have been two years or more ago that was the case.

As I’ve said before, this fight isn’t over. But thanks to you, we remain unwavering in giving the excellent, patient-centered care expected of the state’s sole academic medical center.

Monumental in a different way is news of UMMC’s annual appropriation from the Mississippi Legislature. They appropriated $177.2 million in general funds to the Medical Center for fiscal year 2023, an increase of $16.2 million over fiscal year 2022. As the last step, this bill is now headed to the governor for signature.

As I said in the spring faculty meeting on Tuesday, we are profoundly grateful that our lawmakers have shown they realize and appreciate the value of investing in academic medicine. So many of our friends in the Legislature have looked hard for ways to support our programs. Their investment in UMMC will yield benefits to all of the state’s 82 counties.

Funding UMMC will receive also includes two huge projects directly affecting students, patients and our ability to provide the latest cutting-edge equipment and facilities. Of more than $1.5 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds the Legislature appropriated this session, UMMC’s allotment is $105 million - $55 million for a new School of Nursing building, and $50 million for adult hospital patient care improvements.

Our appropriation includes funding for many programs that benefit Mississippians: the Asylum Hill project; the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program, allowing it to add an additional slot for a rural student who aspires to return to his or her community to practice medicine; and the Mississippi Rural Dentists Scholarship Program, allowing it to add three slots to increase the number of dentists in our state.

The appropriation also includes funding that we normally get each year for the Cancer Center and Research Institute, the ACT (A Comprehensive Tobacco) Center, the Office of Mississippi Physician Workforce, the Children’s Safe Center, the MIND Center, and health insurance increases.

We are also thankful to the Legislature for its support in providing funding for the Mississippi Thrive Child Health and Developmental Promotion Fellowship Program.

The impact of the ARPA funding will be profound. The UMMC School of Nursing is the largest producer of nurses in Mississippi and develops nurse leaders through innovative partnerships, practice and research, and a focus on life-long learning.

VC_Apr_8_SONStudentsTo get to where our nursing school needs to be to meet Mississippi’s demands, it needs to grow. It’s our job and mission to educate tomorrow’s nursing workforce, but to grow the nursing school class in the face of a dire local and national nursing shortage, we need more and better space.

The Legislature also passed a number of bills that will enhance patient care statewide, among them are positive , removal of the Medicaid provider rate freeze, removal of a prohibition on covering hearing aids for children in the State Health Plan, updates to the newborn screening program, and development of a coordinated statewide system of non-transport emergency medical services.

All told, this was an historic session for the Medical Center. It speaks to the heart of what we as the state’s only academic medical center do every day: care for the sickest of the sick, provide many unique services that can’t be found at other hospitals in the state, perform groundbreaking research, and educate tomorrow’s health professionals and scientists.

Please join me in thanking our friends in the Legislature for partnering with us to create A Healthier Mississippi.

Signed, Lou Ann Woodward, M.D.

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