Hospital May Have To Shut Down Emergency Room

A South Mississippi Hospital may have to close the doors of its emergency room because of the growing insurance crisis in Mississippi.

Thursday, the CEO of Crosby Memorial Hospital in Picayune told WLOX News the hospital may soon lose its emergency room malpractice insurance.

The company which insures Crosby's ER recently notified hospital administrators that the insurance premium will go up in 60 days. Crosby currently pays $160,000 a year to insure emergency room personnel against malpractice lawsuits.

"The (insurance) quotes are from zero to ten million dollars. There's not an end point to what the increase can be," Dr. Steve Watson, president of Crosby Memorial said.

Watson says it would be impossible for the hospital to sign an open-ended insurance contract as the insurance company has proposed.

Watson and Crosby CEO Steve Grimm blame the insurance crisis on the court system in Mississippi which has become known for huge lawsuit verdicts. Mississippi juries in recent years have handed down several multi-million dollar verdicts, many of which have been reduced on appeal. Doctors, business leaders and others are calling for civil justice changes, including caps on punitive damage awards.

"I think it's truly is the tip of the iceberg and it's something we don't want to see happen here," Grimm said. "The emergency room is the core of our business, and we realize it's the heart and soul, but we can't let it force us to have us stop operating the hospital completely, and that's what we're facing."

For the people who rely on Crobsy Memorial for treatment the threat of losing the Emergency Room means they'll have to travel to farther for medical care when they need it most. Pearl River County resident Floyd Chessher found out about the ER crisis right after Crosby doctors treated him.

"They save lives here and it's just like any other emergency room what's the use of having a hospital if you don't have an emergency room. It will mean a lot of people dying between the distance to get emergency treatment," Chessher said.

Chessher is just one of 16,000 Crosby ER patients each year who will have to go to Hattiesburg, the Coast or even out of state to get emergency treatment.