Area residents will no longer be able to have surgery in Columbia.
Marion General Hospital is shutting down the Marion County Surgical Clinic as of Oct. 1 in a cost-saving move.
The hospital, owned by the county and managed by Hattiesburg-based Forrest General Hospital, was losing close to $500,000 per year on the clinic, according to former Administrator Bryan Maxie.
Maxie, who recently shifted into a role overseeing all of the regional facilities operated by Forrest General, said closing it was a difficult decision that had to be made to keep the hospital viable.
“Bottom line is we didn’t have enough patients seeking surgical procedures to financially support having a surgical practice in the hospital,” he said.
Dr. Ronald Luethje, the lone surgeon at the clinic, will remain on the staff working in the Emergency Room. The longtime Columbia resident wrote a letter to the editor regarding the decision. In it he said he remains committed to the “passionate pursuit of surgery” but was “abruptly informed” of the decision. Luethje thanked patients and the community for their support (see Page 5 for the full text).
The hospital, in an advertisement published in today’s newspaper, thanked Luethje and the clinic staff for their service.
“In no means did this decision have anything to do with Dr. Luethje and the quality of care he provides,” Maxie said. “He’s an excellent surgeon who provides quality care.”
Forrest General has contracted with Marion County for nearly six years to run the hospital here.
Calvin Newsom, president of the Marion County Board of Supervisors, said Maxie informed the board about the closure.
“Basically the hospital had mentioned to us the money that was being lost and we’re all aware that some of the small hospitals are losing money and closing in other places,” Newsom said. “We’re praying that ours doesn’t. We want it to continue to grow and work efficiently and hopefully one day we can get surgery back.”
Forrest General has decided to open back up the ICU, Maxie said. He said the ICU should reopen toward the middle or end of September.
Maxie said the impact on patients won’t be large because not many people were using the surgical services. He said the types of procedures being done there are now normally done within physician offices.
He said every day they’re facing more and more cuts in reimbursement from Washington and Jackson.
“You can’t continue to have loss leaders in small facilities and expect them to stay financially viable and stay open. What we’re trying to do is ensure the long-term success of the hospital,” Maxie said.