Dr. James Wynn, professor of transplant surgery, checks in with patient Harry Miggins shortly before Miggins' outpatient procedure.
Dr. James Wynn, professor of transplant surgery, checks in with patient Harry Miggins shortly before Miggins' outpatient procedure.
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Better experience at Merit Health Madison key for UMMC surgery patients

Published on Monday, September 30, 2019

By: Ruth Cummins

Like hundreds of Mississippians, Harry Miggins is on dialysis while waiting for the kidney transplant that will greatly improve his quality of life.

But pending that, several of his vessels have been widened and strengthened to make it easier for his blood to flow to and from a dialysis machine. Dr. James Wynn, University of Mississippi Medical Center professor of transplant surgery, performed two outpatient procedures to better accommodate needles required for dialysis.

Miggins’ surgery took place not on UMMC’s campus in Jackson, but at Merit Health Madison, thanks to a business venture between the two hospitals. It allows Medical Center physicians to perform low-risk, non-complex surgeries and provide post-operative care and clinic visits at Merit Health’s facilities in Canton, effectively expanding UMMC’s adult hospital capacity and operating room availability.

And, it allows UMMC providers to be more easily accessible by patients and families.

Wynn performs an outpatient procedure on Miggins at Merit Health Madison.

Miggins loves it. Each of his surgeries were in the morning, and he was home by early afternoon. “I got in and out pretty fast. It was a good experience,” said Miggins, who lives in Jackson.

Parking at Merit Health Madison, a quick jog off the Nissan Parkway West exit, “is really good,” Miggins said. He and his father were able to park just steps from the visitors’ entrance.

At a time when competition for patients can be fierce in the health care market, the relationship between UMMC and Merit Health Madison is just the opposite.  UMMC surgeons work side by side with Merit Health Madison’s surgical nurses, anesthesiologists and surgical support staff in providing select short-stay procedures.

UMMC daily copes with constraints on operating room space, hospital bed space and ambulatory clinic space. The agreement allows room for more high-acuity cases and specialty procedures to take place at University Hospital.

"Merit Health Madison is proud to partner with the University of Mississippi Medical Center to facilitate access to health care while allowing growth of services for patients in central Mississippi," said Brit Phelps, Merit Health Madison’s chief executive officer. 

"Our community is benefiting from UMMC specialists, such as Dr. James Wynn, who can operate and follow up with their patients at Merit Health Madison."   

Portrait of Dr. Thomas Helling

Dr. Thomas Helling, professor and chief of the Division of General Surgery, frequently performs procedures in the ORs at Merit Health Madison.

“What’s been a pleasant surprise for patients is the ease in which they can maneuver through the system,” Helling said. “It’s a light, airy environment, and it’s not crowded. Patients are having a good experience as they work through the surgery, post-operative care and discharge.”

Along with general surgery procedures, UMMC specialists are performing orthopaedic, breast, breast oncology, plastic, general and pediatric ENT, and vascular access surgery such as that performed on Miggins.

UMMC physicians are seeing breast, plastic and general surgery patients at clinic appointments there.

“If it’s a serious problem, there’s no question that patients would want to be where the facilities and expertise are, and that’s the main campus,” Helling said. “But if it’s a fairly quick operation with low risk, they’d prefer to be in a hospital that doesn’t have as much activity. Patients enjoy being out here, and they come from all over.”

Dr. Claude Harbarger, assistant professor of otolaryngology and communicative sciences, performs pediatric surgeries at Merit Health Madison every other Thursday. Most of the procedures are for ear tubes and tonsillectomies, he said.

Portrait of Dr. Claude Harbarger

“The patients and families who’ve gone there have had a very good experience,” he said. “It’s more of an in-and-out experience, and the check-in process is quick.”

It also loosens up operating rooms at Batson Children’s Hospital for children with more serious illnesses, Harbarger said.

It’s important to remember that Merit Health Madison is a free-standing hospital equipped with an Emergency Department, full radiology and anesthesia services, ICU services, and a full front-line health care team, Wynn said. “It’s great to have all of those capabilities, if something did arise in a surgery,” he said. “That patient could be admitted, if necessary, to a full-service hospital.”

Wynn performs kidney transplants at UMMC’s Jackson campus, and he’s providing a wide variety of procedures at Merit Heath Madison to help kidney failure patients begin dialysis or continue on it.

“Being able to further expand our surgical capabilities is a great thing, and access is easy for everyone,” he said. “Patients from the northern part of the state like to come here so that they don’t have to drive into Jackson.”

Merit Health Madison’s surgical staff, including veteran nurses and anesthesiologists, “are literally bending over backward to provide patients and families with a good experience,” Helling said. “Everyone seems very appreciative that we are out there and contributing to the success of the medical complex.”

Long-range plans are to explore care for UMMC inpatients at Merit Heath Madison and to perform surgeries there with a higher degree of complexity, Wynn and Helling said.

“We’re focusing now on developing a familiarity with the hospital and personnel, and we hope to expand that as we become more acquainted with the resources and support staff,” Helling said.