Image: UMMC

Image: UMMC

Special to Find It In Fondren (Associated Press)

University of Mississippi Medical Center officials say they’re planning a $150 million expansion of Batson Children’s Hospital to make room for more operating rooms, an imaging center, clinics and a revamped neonatal intensive-care unit.

Dr. James Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs at the medical center, says that while the hospital doesn’t need more general inpatient beds, it needs to expand elsewhere.

Gov. Phil Bryant endorsed the project in last week’s State of the State speech. Bryant spokeswoman Nicole Webb said the governor supports state borrowing of $30 million to contribute to the project, at a rate of $10 million a year for three years.

“The work of children’s hospital is a phenomenal success story that has saved the lives of so many,” Bryant said in his speech.

Other money would come from private donations or money the hospital borrows against future patient revenues, Keeton said.

UMMC is making a big push to increase private fundraising, with the support of football greats Archie and Eli Manning. There’s also a group that supports only Batson, Friends of Children’s Hospital. It raised $1 million in the year ending June 30, 2013, according to a reporting form for tax-exempt organizations.

“We have the potential of some very large donations,” Keeton said.

Keeton says UMMC has started planning a four-story building that would be constructed adjoining the current children’s hospital on Woodrow Wilson Avenue in the parking lot in front of Methodist Rehab. The project originally began as an effort to expand children’s cardiac care, but Keeton said planning expanded to include other needs.

“It seemed silly not to do what’s totally needed,” he said.

Among other needs are a renovation for Batson’s neonatal intensive-care unit, one of the largest such operations in part because so many Mississippi babies are born with complications.

Keeton, a pediatric urologist who’s retiring from his post heading the sprawling medical complex this year, said he views the expansion as part of his legacy and would like to see it completed in about three years. That’s a relatively ambitious timetable.

“This is important to me personally,” Keeton said.

Last year, lawmakers agreed to borrow almost $230 million overall, including $30.5 million to continue construction of a new medical school building at UMMC. That’s part of a multi-year commitment to finance the project, which aims to expand the number of physicians trained by the university.