By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL — The already competitive health care situation in eastern St. Tammany Parish just got a new player.
Highland Community Hospital in Picayune held a grand opening on Sunday for its brand new, 60-bed facility on Highway 11, and is now marketing the North Shore in an attempt to retain the business from Mississippi that has been coming to Slidell and Lacombe for years.
A division of the huge Forrest General Hospital system based out of Hattiesburg, Miss., the new Highland Community Hospital grand opening was led by Administrator Mark Stockstill, who welcomed a packed house on Sunday to the official unveiling of the state-of-the-art facility.
Picayune has been serviced by the older Highland Community Hospital for decades, but when Forrest General purchased the hospital in 2006, a market analysis began to consider renovating the old facility, or building a new one.
Stockstill said the demographics and survey results from residents in the area showed the need, and the support, for the new hospital, that was built for over $55 million. The Hancock County area grew by over 30,000 people after Katrina, and has retained over 20,000 of those new residents to now give them approximately 70,000 residents in the county.
“I believe this new, state-of-the-art facility is a quantum leap forward in delivery of high quality, safe and efficient care in Pearl River County,” Stockstill said.
The three-story hospital is highlighted by an ER double the size of the former Highland hospital, a layout designed to minimize patient’s wait time, expanded space for surgery, diagnostic tests and services for expectant moms. New medical office buildings offer convenient access for physicians.
Highland began advertising over a month ago on the North Shore, and Stockstill said it is simply an attempt to keep the market share from Picayune and surrounding areas that has been going to the Slidell and Lacombe hospitals for years.
“We have only about 30 percent market share of the Picayune residents,” he said. “For years, many residents here have been going to the North Shore to Slidell Memorial, Ochsner and the Heart Hospital.
“We aren’t trying to compete for the business in the Slidell area, we’re just trying to make sure our folks know we have a new hospital and they can stay at home for their treatment now,” he added.
It was less than a year ago the Slidell area saw the possibility of losing one hospital here, when the Louisiana Medical Center & Heart Hospital went on the block for sale. Some experts wondered if there would be a buyer.
However, since that time, Cardiovascular Care Group (CCG) out of Nashville purchased the hospital and changed the name back to the Louisiana Heart Hospital, while still offering many other services. Now with Highland Community Hospital joining the local market, there are four full-service hospitals, along with Southern Surgical Hospital in the Slidell area providing a multitude of surgical services as well.
“Our theme is to stay at home for health care,” Stockstill said. “We hope to see that since the new Highland will set the tempo for future growth and development of our community.”
Stockstill, a former Chief Nursing Operator, was named the chief operating officer at Highland, then promoted to administrator in Feb., 2011. He was joined by Forrest Health President and CEO Evan Dillard, and Picayune Mayor Ed Pinero, at the grand opening event.