A water tank is placed outside of Merit Health Central in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, August 30, 2022. Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today

Merit Health Central’s chief executive officer David Henry is leaving the south Jackson hospital to take the helm at Merit Health Madison following the reduction and relocation of many of the hospital’s services to the company’s suburban facilities like Merit Health River Oaks.

He began in the new role Monday.

When reached by phone last week, Henry directed all questions to the company’s marketing department.

Barry Moss, the vice president of operations for Merit Health, will serve as the interim CEO for the Jackson hospital until a permanent leader is identified, according to Alicia Carpenter, director of marketing for Merit Health.

“A search will begin immediately for that individual, and hospital leaders, members of the board of trustees as well as medical staff members will be involved in the search,” said Carpenter in an email to Mississippi Today.

At the same time, the hospital, which drastically reduced services and closed its burn center last year, has decreased the hours its MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is available to patients. Patients will not be able to get MRIs on the weekend or after 4 p.m. and before 7 a.m. during the week.

“MRI imaging at Merit Health Central is for diagnostic or elective services. For emergent diagnosis of a head or brain injury, we have CT available 24/7,” said Carpenter. “For non-emergent situations after 4 p.m., we schedule the patient’s MRI for the next available day.”

Nashville-based Community Health Partners owns Merit Health Central and eight other private hospitals in the state. The company has a lease agreement with Hinds County stating that Central must operate as a “full service general acute care hospital.” It is also obligated to provide medical services for Hinds County Detention Center inmates.

County officials were concerned about the hospital meeting its lease agreements, but Tony Gaylor, the attorney for the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, said he and other county officials met with Merit Health employees about three months ago.

He said they are still seeing “a substantial number of citizens at their facility.”

“We are certainly concerned about any reduction of services at the hospital. But we are also mindful of the fact that state law allows them to do some level of diversion of patients to other facilities at times,” said Gaylor.

“We’ll be talking more with our state officials about what they can do to assist us in making sure that hospital remains viable for that area of Hinds County,” he said.

Merit Health Central incurred just shy of $16 million in net uninsured costs, or the cost of services for which the patient had no insurance coverage, in fiscal year 2022. That is the largest amount of uncompensated care of any Merit Health hospital in the state that year.

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.