Dr. Derek Culnan, former medical director of the now-closed JMS Burn and Reconstruction Center at Merit Health Central in Jackson, said Merit gave him 30 days notice that the hospital would close the center due to financial difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. and recruitment challenges. Culnan continued to care for existing patients and began talking to hospitals about how to open a new center — and fast.
“This is a state that needs that service, and I wouldn’t give up on the people just because it was difficult,” Culnan said.
Merit Health Central’s burn center — which was the only accredited center in the state — saw about 600 to 800 patients a month, according to officials who worked there.
Culnan, who completed a fellowship in burn surgery where he worked with adults and children at the University of Texas, struck a deal with Baptist in Jackson and gained hospital privileges. When he was admitted to the team, he started taking care of patients right away, he said.
“We’re still not working on the scale we were working on at Merit, but I’m operating on someone pretty much every day,” he said.
Culnan, who says he is one of about 250 specially trained burn surgeons in the United States, also performed complex hand surgery at the former center, which was the only hand replantation center in the state. Reimplantation is the surgical replacement of a finger or hand.
Culnan’s operation has the backing of House Speaker Philip Gunn, who has drafted a bill that would provide $12 million in lump sum money to establish a burn center in Baptist.
Gunn said he was approached by Batista and believes Mississippi needs a burn center, regardless of who runs it.
“Everything will be resolved. There are many different ways to do this,” he said.
Baptist officials said that to move forward with a burns center, they must acquire specialized equipment and additional intensive care capacity. Culnan is currently operating in standard operating rooms.
“As a result, we reached out to our elected officials and shared that we are willing and able to operate this service if we are successful in receiving one-time financial support for some of these costs,” said Bobbie Ware, CEO of Mississippi Baptist Medical Center.
The hospital has yet to submit its accreditation application to the state Department of Health, a spokesman said.
But at the same time, the UMMC, the state’s only academic medical center, is on the hunt for a burns center — despite a history of turning the opportunity away.
After the burn center in Greenville closed in 2005, state legislators in 2006 approached then-Vice Chancellor of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Dr. Dan Jones on establishing a burn center at the UMMC. Jones told Mississippi Today that he has asked lawmakers for an annual pledge to help UMMC run the program, but lawmakers have only offered money once.
UMMC withdrew, citing financial constraints, but lawmakers nonetheless passed a bill in 2007, without funding, authorizing the university to create the Mississippi Burn Center.
In September of last year, University of Mississippi Medical Center officials were unsure if they planned to open a burn center after Merit Health Central’s center closed. They did say, however, that they would increase their capabilities to care for these patients, but did not offer details.
But UMMC officials have quietly — and now more openly — sought state funding to establish the burn center. Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the medical school, spoke in front of an appropriations subcommittee earlier in session, and a bill by Senator John Polk introduces the 2007 code section that authorized UMMC to create the Mississippi Burn Center. Lawmakers could use Polk’s bill to earmark money and make other amendments to the law.
Polk told Mississippi Today that he has not made any decisions about which hospital would support the establishment of a burn center.
“The (burn center) legislation was last examined in 2007, as far as I know. This is a whole new legislature,” Polk said. “All kinds of things have changed. We need to come up with the legislation to study it and see if we need to make some changes.”
It’s unclear how much UMMC is asking lawmakers and whether the money would be recurring. UMMC did not have any outside funding for the center at the time, said Dr. Alan Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs, at a press conference on Friday.
He mentioned the Mississippi Burn Care Fund, which costs between $500,000 and $1 million a year, and the hope that the UMMC will have access to that once it receives accreditation from the Department of Health, which manages the fund.
UMMC announced that it would establish its own burn center the day after it submitted its application for accreditation to the Department of Health. The Doctor. Peter Arnold, plastic surgeon, was named medical director.
UMMC officials say Arnold’s past experience treating burn patients qualifies him for the position, which regulations say must be filled by a physician who has completed a burn fellowship or who has spent two of the previous five years treating patients. burned.
“Dr. Arnold … has had extensive training and experience caring for patients with acute burns and complex wounds in his nearly 20-year career,” Jones said. “He is assisted at the Mississippi Burn Center by five other highly qualified and expertly trained plastic surgeons, all with significant experience treating pediatric and adult patients with acute burns.”
Jones also told the media at a news conference on Friday that the hospital has “the necessary infrastructure” but will need to make additional hires, including about 30 nurses trained specifically in treating burns.
“That won’t be right away. Over time, it will grow,” Jones said.
He also said they won’t have to add additional beds to accommodate operating a burn center. Currently, burn patients are being treated in a regular hospital unit.
Jones said the university has treated about 75 burn patients in the emergency room over the past four months.
“But as the volume grows, we identify a dedicated space that is really ready to go. So, after this approval (from the Secretary of Health), we will start to operationalize it, ”he said.
Editor’s Note: Kate Royals, Community Health Editor for Mississippi Today since January 2022, worked as a writer/editor for the UMMC Office of Communications from November 2018 to August 2020, writing press releases and features about dental schools and nursing at the medical center.
— Article credit to Mississippi Today’s Kate Royals —