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House passes bill for palliative care facility construction

Photo courtesy of Batson's Children's Hospital.

During his State of the State Address, Governor Bryant discussed the importance of bringing a palliative care facility to Mississippi for children who require live-in care at a hospital. On Thursday, the House took a step toward fulfilling that goal.

By a vote of 76 to 39, the House passed a bill that would create such a facility in the city of Jackson to house up to 30 patients with over 30,000 square feet of patient care and related support space.

Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital is the current home for the children in need of the care, but it is not designed to house long-term care patients, and this has created the need for the new facility. The bill did pass, but only after nearly an hour of debate on the House floor over the location of the facility.

The non-profit, Mississippi Center for Medically Fragile Children, will build the facility at no cost to the state or the taxpayers, according to Chairman of the House Public Property Committee Tom Weathersby. The site for this building would be set on 7 acres of undeveloped property on Lakeland Drive, east of I-55 while the original site was going to be in a renovated Cavalry Baptist Church on W. Capitol Street in Jackson. The total cost of the construction will be $10 million, according to Weathersby.

Several lawmakers were upset by the changing of the location, including Alyce Clark. Who says that the center should be at the original site at the Church, which is located in her district. The plans for the renovation of this church for the use as a palliative care facility were drawn up back in 2008.

“I just don’t understand that when it appears that you can get something in the area, somebody comes up with a reason why you don’t need it in that area. How would you feel if it was in your district, and I came over and came up with a reason that you didn’t need it?” Clark asked.

“I would feel bad about,” Weathersby responded.

“Well since you know how it feels, all I would like to ask you is to let it be where it’s supposed to be,” Clark said.

Weathersby says the decision comes down to cost as the overall cost of the renovations of the Church would be $30 million. The acreage where the building will go is currently owned by the state. Discussions have been ongoing to make the original location work since the original plans were discussed.

“The Governor and First Lady have done everything that they could possibly do to make that site at Cavalry Baptist work, but the truth of the matter is that it just won’t happen,” Weathersby said. “It’s cost prohibitive. This has been worked on since 2008, it hasn’t worked, and they haven’t been able to come up with the money. We have a bill that will take care of the problem.”

During the debate on the floor, Weathersby discussed how he hopes that the true meaning of the project won’t get lost during the political process.

“More than being a great benefit to the city of Jackson, it will be a great benefit to these children that need to be moved,” Weathersby said. “I hope that as we talk about this bill that we consider to think about the needs of these children as much as we think about where we are going to put this building.”

This issue has been taken on by First Lady Deborah Bryant, along with the Governor. In Governor Bryant’s remarks during the aforementioned address, he called the development of such a facility a “mission of mercy.”

“With the leadership of the First Lady, UMMC and the Department of Human Services, we will soon begin construction on a long-term palliative care unit in Jackson’s medical zone. The center will offer a home-like treatment facility for the medically fragile children who are now living at Batson. This will be a life-altering experience for those patients and their families. If there is ever a mission of mercy we can achieve, it is this palliative care medical home for the children of Blair E. Batson,” Governor Bryant said.

Currently, five patients live at Blair E. Batson and are in need of long-term care. No completion date for the project has been given, but it was stated that the company is ready to break ground as soon as they receive approval.

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