Mississippi Medical Linkup

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It's a centerpiece of medical care in Mississippi and it's on tap to create a public-private affiliation that's causing concern. The University of Mississippi Medical Center is in talks with developing that affiliation with the Florida based company, Health Management Associates.

"This is a company that interested in perusing a likely for profit relationship," said Jonathan Davis.

Davis is a researcher with the Service Employees International Union which claims to be the nation's largest health care union. The group contends a partnership with HMA would harm healthcare in Mississippi.

"HMA is a troubled company and it's not a good place for young doctors beginning their profession career to be training in and learning from," said Davis.

Davis says HMA has a poor track record, pointing to lawsuits filed against the company for alleged Medicare fraud. Currently, HMA owns 10 hospitals in the state stretching from Biloxi to Clarksdale, five of them in the Jackson metro area.

"It's been cited for serious medical deficiencies, disregarding physician orders and it's also been accused of possibly admitting patients from the ER to inpatient care without medical necessity," said Davis.

HMA's Southern Division marketing manager, Kace Ragan declined an on camera interview but said the group has yet to directly contact HMA. Ragan says she's not sure what the group's motivation is. She adds allegations are grouped together making it look like one huge ongoing problem when in reality many issues have been addressed.

The service union claims a membership of about 700 people in the medical field across the state. However, none of those members are from UMMC. Union representatives say the group is playing more of a watchdog role, but even with the outcry, the plans are still on the table.

A statement from UMMC says any relationship with HMA will comply with laws and regulations while maintaining high standards.

"To date, nothing in our discussions has given us any cause to doubt the potential benefit this affiliation would provide to our academic and service missions and to the people of Mississippi," the statement said.

As talks continue, so do the concerns.

"Before this is voted on, this should be thoroughly and publicly discussed," said Davis.

Ragan adds these type of partnerships are being done in other parts of the country as well with teaching facilities and that the whole purpose is to bring more physicians to more people, especially in rural Mississippi.