Stone County Hospital Back In the Health Care Business

Stone County residents no longer have to go far to get emergency medical care. On Sunday the Stone County Hospital admitted a patient for the first time in two years. The hospital closed in 1999 after the previous owner ran into some financial difficulties. Now it's operating under new ownership with many of it's old employees.

Danna Bickford, a nurse, describes the two years that she, her family and friends went without nearby emergency medical care as scary. [

Bickford said "I have a son-in-law who's quadriplegic and he has only been in once but had this hospital not been open at that time he would not have survived a trip to the coast. We would not have him now. This hospital is very important to this community."

An emergency room isn't the only advantage in the more modern Stone County Hospital. Patients will be able to get x-rays, laboratory work and respiratory therapy without traveling to Hattiesburg or the Coast. Hospital administrators say the local economy is also getting a shot in the arm.

"It's a huge economic engine," said Ron Burton, Acting Administrator. "Probably this hospital would be one of if not the largest employer in all of Stone County and it will contribute something like 23 million dollars worth of economic impact to the Stone County even in just it's first year of operation."

Many of the employees live in nearby communities and say working to help friends and neighbors isn't much like work at all.

"I really enjoy the work I do, and I enjoy the patients," said respiratory therapist Dennis Brownlow. "I enjoy the other staff members. It's really a lot of fun actually."

The hospital has 25 beds for patients who need to be admitted. Because of insurance reasons the emergency room was not open on Sunday. Administrators plan to open it on Monday night.

by Danielle Thomas