South Central Regional Medical Center announces a construction project that has been in the works for quite some time. When complete, the additions will include a new Emergency Department, a new medical office tower with a new wellness and rehabilitation center, a helipad, and additional parking. The project, which is set to begin in late February will improve efficiency and consolidate health system operations.
Doug Higginbotham, President and Chief Executive Officer at South Central Regional Medical Center, said, “This is a project that has been on the drawing board for about 12 years, which is about the time the “S” Curve project on the interstate began. It took almost 11 years to acquire the land and about a year to design the project. During this period, we have dealt with many individuals and agencies. As a result of their cooperation, we are here today.”
Prior to the property acquisition, South Central Regional Medical Center was landlocked. The new medical office building will allow surgeons and other healthcare providers close proximity to the Emergency Department, the Surgery Department and other treatment areas of the medical center. Officials at South Central will evaluate the need for the buildings which will be left after some clinic operations move to the new medical office tower. Plans are to sell those buildings that are no longer needed.
Higginbotham was quick to recognize the numerous individuals who played a part in making the project a reality. “As a county owned institution, this project would not have been possible without the support of our current Board of Supervisors – Jerome Wyatt, Johnny Burnett, Barry Saul, Danny Roy Spradley, and David Scruggs, as well as the support of past members of the Board of Supervisors. The Supervisors have always supported our institution in efforts to improve access to healthcare for Jones and surrounding counties.”
“Our current Board of Trustees -George Walters, Victor Jones, Lewis Goins, Mike Lowe, Becky Brewer, Frank Therrell, and Arthur Siggers – and past members of our Board of Trustees, have spent numerous hours over the years making decisions to get us to this point,” Higginbotham said. The construction project is being funded by the United States Department of Agriculture. “We are thankful for their support as well,” he said.
During the property acquisition and project development time frame, Higginbotham said the organization had the support of 3 Laurel mayors, both past (Susan Vincent, Melvin Mack) and present (Johnny Magee) as well as Laurel City Council members past and present. Their support came in the form of making some modifications to the “S” curve project and on land acquisition. He said South Central also worked with the Department of Transportation (Tom King), the Corp of Engineers, the Mississippi State Department of Health, and numerous attorneys and financial advisors.
Laurel native, Mike Foil of Foil-Wyatt Architects and Planners in Jackson, is the architect for the project. He has been working with South Central for more than 30 years on various projects. “Because of his knowledge of our operations, Foil has been a valuable partner in designing this project,” Higginbotham said. The architectural and planning firm has focused its work in the areas of healthcare, higher education, hospitality, manufacturing design, laboratory design, and veterinary design and planning. The firm has completed projects on over 30 university and hospital campuses throughout North America.
The successful bidder on the project was Mac’s Construction Company of Hattiesburg, with the construction portion of the project totaling approximately $33 million. Mac’s has a reputation as a quality organization that has done many large projects. Hal McMahan, Vice President of the construction company, said, “We understand that each healthcare project is unique and brings its own set of challenges. For a healthcare provider, the goal is to provide the community with a facility that will ensure the best patient care. As the contractor working within a healthcare environment, our services encompass the entire process. While constructing quality facilities, we provide uninterrupted patient care, as well as staff and visitor safety.”
South Central Regional Medical Center qualified for loans from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development. Tom Canizaro, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at South Central, said, “The funding source for the project is being provided through two programs, a USDA Community Facility Direct Loan and the USDA Community Facility Guaranteed Loan. “The loan will cover the construction project, the furniture and equipment for the new areas, all current outstanding debt and the cost of the financial transaction. The annual debt service of the new financing will actually be less than South Central’s current annual debt service.”
“The loan will cover the construction project, the furniture and equipment for the new areas, all current outstanding debt and the cost of the financial transaction. The annual debt service of the new financing will actually be less than South Central’s current annual debt service.” Tom Canizaro, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
The health system is borrowing $66,500,000 of which $57,745,000 is a USDA Community Facility Direct Loan. “The remaining loan of $8,755,000 is a USDA Community Facility Guaranteed Loan with a 90% USDA Guarantee. In order to finance the project during construction, South Central Regional Medical Center is issuing bond anticipation notes with a 3 year term. These bond anticipation notes will be issued upon final approval from the USDA. The USDA Community Facility Direct Loan will be a 40 year fixed rate direct loan while the USDA Community Facility Guaranteed Loan will be a 20 year loan with monthly payments to begin upon execution of the documents. It is anticipated that upon maturity of the bonds, they will be paid off from proceeds of the USDA direct loan upon final USDA approval.
Higginbotham closed by saying, “South Central has been in this community for 65 years. We are the 2nd largest employer in Jones County with almost 1900 employees and an economic impact to our local community annually of almost $200 million. We believe we are an integral part of this community and this project will improve our ability to meet the needs of our community and help to enhance our future stability.”