Update: The State Board of Health adopted the proposed change requiring notification of closure of service lines at its October meeting.
Hospitals must give a 30-day notice about closure or the discontinuing of services, under a Mississippi State Department of Health proposed rule.
News of the proposed change came after Mississippi Today sought answers about the closing of Patient’s Choice Medical Center of Smith County in Raleigh, which was at the time still listed as open on the Health Department’s facilities directory.
The Health Department said the proposal is not related to any specific situation.
While the Health Department for some time has required facilities to notify the agency of a complete facility closure under Rule 41.5.1, the proposed revision seeks to improve communication and maintenance of records, according to the department.
“The new requirement for notification of closure of service lines is to ensure MSDH has visibility of closures that could impact patient care within the state,” the Office of Licensure at the state Health Department told Mississippi Today via email.
The proposed amendment will be on the agenda at the State Board of Health meeting in October.
According to the state Health Department’s Office of Licensure, Patient’s Choice did not notify the department of its closing.
The licensure office told Mississippi Today that when state health inspectors arrived at Patient’s Choice to do a survey on May 15, they found the building was no longer in use.
Patient’s Choice has sat empty for over three months, but it could reopen under new management.
Gregg Gibbes, president and chief executive officer at South Central Regional Medical Center in Laurel, told Mississippi Today in August he was eager to discuss the circumstances surrounding Patient’s Choice.
“That’s gonna be one of the biggest healthcare news stories this year. It’s very exciting,” Gibbes said.
When Mississippi Today reached out to Gibbes days later for further clarification, he wouldn’t answer any questions.
Over the past four years, Gibbes has served as CEO and administrator at Simpson General Hospital (2020), Magee General Hospital in Mendenhall (2019) and Collins-based Covington County Hospital (2016).
All three hospitals fall under the South Central Regional Medical Center’s partnership with multiple rural community hospitals in the state’s south-central region, according to a news release from South Central Regional Medical Center.
In late July 2023, before the Health Department updated its Directory of Mississippi Facilities removing Patient’s Choice, the hospital was listed as having 29 general acute care beds, 10 of which were in a geriatric psychiatric unit.
Any more specifics about what services were offered or changes in services would have to come from the facility itself, the state Health Department said.
Mississippi Today reached out to a doctor and worker who were employed at the hospital during the administration of the late Paulette Butler. Both declined to speak about the services offered at Patient’s Choice or other questions related to the facility.
Mississippi Today also reached out three times to a former chief executive officer at the facility, Tim Cockrell, but he was not available for comment before publication. Mississippi Today also could not reach the facility’s current owner, Robert Hall. No current contact number was available.
Based on the Office of Licensure records, the facility voluntarily terminated its Medicare certification on July 3, 2023.
To understand the medical center’s conditions before it officially closed Mississippi Today obtained from the state Health Department the three most recent inspection reports for Patient’s Choice Medical Center, dated 2019, 2015 and 2011.
The facility was initially assessed as not up to code in the 2011 and 2019 reports. The inspection in between, in 2015, found it in compliance. In July 2015, the facility was noted as in compliance with the Medicare Conditions of Participation for Mississippi Hospitals after a Medicare recertification survey was conducted.
According to the 2019 inspection report, the last one done of the hospital, the human resources director said there were four rooms used for acute care patients and 13 rooms had not been in use since 2014. The director also told inspectors that the acute care floor was shut down in May 2019 and not in use.
The facility also had a senior care floor, according to the inspection report.
The report stated that a registered nurse “confirmed no call lights were operable in any of the senior care patient rooms and maintenance is aware.”
Once Patient’s Choice provided a plan of correction addressing all deficiencies, the state Department of Health dated the corrections as completed no more than a month later.
In August 2011, the report documented the facility was deemed not up to code for reasons including incomplete patient documentation, storage of expired medications and a failed fire alarm system in the senior care unit. After getting up to compliance, a letter dated in November 2011 was sent to the chief executive officer finding the facility’s “credible allegation of compliance for its Medicare deficiencies has been found acceptable.”
For now, talks with the potential new management to take over the hospital are in limbo, said District 3 Smith County Supervisor Benjie Ford.
“It’ll be close to November or December before they ever give us an update on what’s going on,” Ford said.
According to September records, the Health Department’s Division of Health Planning and Resource Development has no certificate of need application in process for Patient’s Choice to reopen.