Ridgeland doctors help establish burn center

Ridgeland doctors help establish burn center


Two doctors who live in Ridgeland are among the large team of doctors, administrators and other staff at the University of Mississippi Medical Center who have established the Mississippi Burn Center on its main campus.

The center was established in part as a result of the closing of the burn center at Merit Health in Jackson last October.

Dr. Alan Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs and a resident of Ridgeland, said the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning approved UMMC’s request to establish and operate the Mississippi Burn Center on Jan. 19.

“This approval confirms our commitment to providing complex care to burn patients so they can receive timely care close to home and with the trusted expertise of the Mississippi’s only academic medical center,” Jones said. “We want to keep burn care in Mississippi for Mississippians.”

Since the Merit Health Central burn center closed, Jones said, UMMC has treated upward of 100 patients. That includes about 75 who came through the Emergency Department, and a number of those were hospitalized.

“For a victim of burns, that’s a very substantial event in someone’s life,” Jones said. “The care our organization can give in the state of Mississippi will help them get better sooner.”

Dr. Peter Arnold, professor of surgery and chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at UMMC, has been named the Medical Director of the burn center. Arnold lives in Ridgeland and has been at UMMC for 13 years. He said having burn patients under one roof will help them offer better care.

“Burn patients need almost every specialty available,” Arnold said.

Jones added, “We have all the specialists needed to do this on our staff.”

Merit Health Central officials announced that the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Merit Health Central in Jackson closed on Oct. 14, citing challenges related to COVID-19 and staffing the necessary specialists.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the challenging staffing and recruitment environment have made it increasingly difficult for us to recruit the breadth of specialists needed to maintain the burn program,” the statement reads in part. “Which is the primary reason why we’ve made the difficult decision to close the Burn Center effective October 14, 2022.” 

Arnold noted that burn care often goes well beyond the first visit to the emergency room.

“When you have burns, you have them for the rest of your life,” Arnold said. “The (first) treatment for burns is just the beginning. We have the resources in place and the willingness of the organization for that to take place.”

Arnold said the importance of having a centrally located burn center in the state is that burn victims and their families are not as likely to have to travel out of state for care. He noted that Jackson can be reached in about three hour's drive from anywhere in the state.

Traveling out of state creates a hardship for friends, family and caretakers.

Previous legislation directed UMMC to establish a burn center. Its establishment fulfills the Medical Center’s statutory responsibility, but also provides needed care for burn patients in the state. UMMC will also collaborate with the Mississippi State Department of Health to finalize the center’s accreditation.

Even before Merit Health Central’s burn center closed in October, UMMC was focused on filling the gap that was created. 

“We’ve been working on the process of getting to where we are today since September,” Jones said.

The Mississippi Burn Center will expand incrementally, eventually adding about 30 nurses specifically trained in burn care that will treat patients in a dedicated inpatient space. 

“This is an opportunity for us to grow something really special in Mississippi,” Arnold said.

Children’s of Mississippi, UMMC’s pediatric arm, has always treated children who suffer burns. “As the only children’s hospital in the state, we are the ideal organization to take care of really sick children,” Jones said.

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