Efforts to provide state funding to reestablish a burn center in the state are not dead this legislative session even though the bills filed specifically to accomplish that goal have died.
A bill that would have provided funds for a burn center at Mississippi Baptist Medical Center in Jackson recently died in the Senate when it was not passed by a key deadline day.
But Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who presides over the Senate, said the issue is not dead. Money can be awarded to a burn center in an appropriations bill.
“All of that will come up in the next 24 to 48 hours,” said Hosemann referencing the work currently ongoing behind closed doors by legislative leaders to hammer out a final budget proposal for the full Legislature to vote on.
The budget will be passed during the final days in more than 100 appropriations bills that will fund the various state agencies and provide funds for specific projects throughout the state. The funds for a burn center, for instance, could be included in the budget for the Department of Health, which under state law has the responsibility to designate a burn center.
The issue has been a highlight of the 2023 legislative session after the state’s only burn center, located at Merit Health Central in south Jackson, closed last year. Merit officials said it was closing because of challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic and because of recruitment issues.
In the final days of the session, Hosemann said decisions will have to be made on where and if a new burn center will be designated.
Two separate bills have been debated this session about whether a new burn center should be located at Baptist Medical Center in Jackson or at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, also located in Jackson.
The legislation that passed the House in February designated Baptist as the burn center. At the time, some legislators questioned why the burn center was not being moved to UMMC. UMMC has been treating burn patients, they argued. Others pointed out the director of the burn center, when it was located at Merit, had moved to Baptist.
Going into the final days of the session, which is slated to end by April 2, if not earlier, that debate still has not been settled.
Correction 3/15/23: A previous version of this story that a bill passed by the House in February awarded $4 million to Baptist for a burn center. The bill had no funding attached to it.