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UMMC breaks ground on state’s first children's skilled nursing facility

Published on Tuesday, December 10, 2019

By: Annie Oeth,

A place where Children’s of Mississippi patients with medically complex conditions can live and where families can get the training needed to provide care at home will be under construction in 2021.

A groundbreaking for the facility, the first of its kind in Mississippi, was held Tuesday, with state and medical leaders in attendance.

Moved indoors due to rain, those participating in a ground breaking ceremony for the state's first pediatric skilled nursing facility include, from left, Regina Qadan, nurse practitioner; Dr. Alfred Rankins Jr., Mississippi commissioner of higher education; Deontay Isaac, Children's of Mississippi patient; Dr. Mary Taylor, pediatrics chair; First Lady Deborah Bryant; DeAsia Scott, Children's of Mississippi patient; Gov. Phil Bryant; William Currie, Children's of Mississippi patient; Dr. Guy Giesecke, Children's of Mississippi CEU; Wesley Smith, nurse manager; Ellen Hansen, chief nursing and clinical services officer; Willow Cannan, Children's of Mississippi patient; James Ingram, executive vice president and CIO of Hertz Investment Group; and Dr. Christian Paine, division chief of pediatric palliative medicine.

The home, designed for patients who need skilled, sometimes around-the-clock nursing care due to the complexity of their medical conditions, will be built in a wooded area off Eastwood Drive in Jackson, minutes from the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus.

“This is the start of something new, historic and very close to all of our hearts,” said Guy Giesecke, CEO of Children’s of Mississippi. “We have patients at our children’s hospital who could live in a more home-like space if skilled nursing care was available. We want for these patients what we want for all children: health, happiness and for them to reach their full potential.”

The idea of such a home took root when Deborah Bryant, wife of Gov. Phil Bryant, met Children’s of Mississippi patient DeAsia Scott, who has lived at the state’s only children’s hospital since being seriously injured in a car accident as a young child.

Mississippi's pediatric skilled nursing facility will be just minutes from the UMMC campus in Jackson.
Mississippi's pediatric skilled nursing facility will be just minutes from UMMC's main campus in Jackson.

The two met during one of the First Lady’s visits to the children’s hospital. “I had no idea there were children who had been there most of their lives, and that just broke my heart,” Bryant said.

Gov. Phil Bryant, who introduced his wife in the ceremony, said the founding of the facility has been a meaningful cause to them.

“My desire was that DeAsia would be able to have a home someday,” Deborah Bryant said. “DeAsia and I would start talking about it, and I would tell her, ‘DeAsia, we’re going to get you a home someday.’ She said, ‘Do you promise?’ Well, if I make a promise, I’m going to keep it.”

Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair, professor and chair of pediatrics, said the home will be an integral part of Children’s of Mississippi, the pediatric arm of UMMC that includes the state’s only children’s hospital as well as clinics around the state.

“We have a special group of patients who need this facility,” she said. “We will give them and other children the care they need in a more homelike atmosphere.”

Gov. Phil Bryant looks on as wife Deborah Bryant and Dr. Mary Taylor, right, unveil a rendering of the state's first pediatric skilled nursing facility.
Gov. Bryant looks on as his wife, Deborah, center, and Taylor unveil a rendering of the state's first pediatric skilled nursing facility.

The facility is being funded through bonds authorized by state legislation as well as through philanthropy. Mississippi Rep. Alyce G. Clarke was honored by name in the legislation for her efforts on such projects.

While the facility will be a skilled nursing facility, the space will have a home-like atmosphere, with areas for dinners and programs indoors, and outdoor space for recreation.

“I always had a vision that I wanted some place in the country, a house in the country for these kids to get to,” said Bryant. “I want them to see the birds and see the trees.”

When the architectural renderings of the facility were unveiled in Tuesday’s ceremony, William Currie, one of the patients who would benefit from it, let out a shout of joy.

“William, you are all about smiles,” responded Deborah Bryant. “You will be our cheerleader.”

Dr. Christian Paine tells of the need for the planned pediatric skilled nursing facility, which is shown in the renderings beside him.
Paine tells of the need for the planned pediatric skilled nursing facility.

Dr. Christian Paine, chief of pediatric palliative care at UMMC, said the facility will be a home for the Children’s of Mississippi patients who have been unable to leave hospital care, but he notes that the true need may not be known yet.

“This may be a case of ‘If you build it, they will come,’” Paine said. “Once this center is open and available, we may find more patients in the state and region in need of this level of care.”

Conditions of patients will vary, he said. Some who will live at the center have been injured in accidents, while others have congenital or genetic conditions. Some may be dependent on technology such as ventilators or feeding tubes to survive and often rely on wheelchairs.

This architectural rendering of a recreation area in the home includes a view of its wooded surroundings.
This architectural rendering of a recreation area in the home includes a view of its wooded surroundings.

Families will be a valued part of the care team, Paine said. Through the facility, families can get the training needed for home care, and for patients whose conditions require a higher level of care, families will be welcomed for visits.

Nurse practitioner Regina Qadan applauds the facility plans, saying it will allow palliative care patients a chance to enjoy the pleasures of home.

“The children of complex care are so much more than their medical conditions,” she said. “They are brave, resilient, amazing and are so loved...this home is what they need, and more importantly, what they dream of.”

While some of these patients may not fully recover, Paine said, this facility will be a home for them. “That is the center of palliative medicine,” he said. “We want these children to have a place to call home and to have good lives.”