BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - It's now been half a century since Hancock County got into the medical business. Back in 1960 the county became the owner of what would later become Hancock Medical Center. The staff says there have been many changes over the years but what hasn't changed is the commitment to serving the community.
Debbie Burch says she took an R.N. job at Hancock Medical Center in Bay St. Louis because it was close to home but that's not why she stayed.
"A wonderful place to work," said Burch. "Good teamwork here. Great administration. Great everything here."
An old cornerstone tells the story of a hospital run by the Catholic church for decades that came into the hands of Hancock County in the late 50s. By 1960, the county had built Hancock General Hospital on Dunbar Avenue followed in 1987 by Hancock Medical Center on Highway 90.
The Chief Executive Officer Hal Leftwich says over the years, keeping up with technology has been a priority.
"In 1973 we had two full time physicians and one visiting surgeon," said Leftwich. "We now have a medical staff of approximately a hundred physicians. We have a full gamut of services we've added not only surgery but then orthopedic surgery and urology and OBGYN. The list goes on and on."
Leftwich says Hancock Medical serves the community by providing medical care for those who can't afford it.
"Historically seven or eight percent of our revenue has been provided in free care to the residents of the county," said Leftwich. "Right now it's 12 to 14 percent, almost double, but that's hopefully coming down a little bit as the economy recovers.
Hancock Medical is trying to adjust to how Katrina shifted the population. A new clinic will soon open in Diamondhead.
"Most people don't mind driving a few miles if they have to go the hospital but they want their doctor to be close. And now with our center in Diamondhead they can go x-rays and lab work and stuff close too. So we're trying to be very responsive to where the community went after Katrina," said Leftwich.
Hancock Medical Center officials say some of the advantages to being county owned are employee access to state retirement system and having the county's backing when issuing bonds.