Pediatric Care on the Coast
Every shift I work in the emergency room at Memorial Hospital, I treat children. Fever, rash, accidental poisonings, falls, and colic are the most common complaints, but more serious pediatric issues also bring children to the hospital.
Here on the Mississippi Coast, we’re blessed to have available a large number of pediatricians and facilities to care for our young patients in need.
To be honest, Mississippi has issues with pediatric care. At 11.4 percent, Mississippi has the highest ratio in the nation of low birthweight children, according to the CDC report on Health, United States 2016. The report also notes that Mississippi’s infant mortality rate of 8.9 percent, is, again, the nation’s highest.
Part of the problem is a statewide shortage of physicians; our ratio of physicians to population is second lowest only to Idaho.
Fortunately, the Coast is a part of the state blessed with adequate children’s health specialists, with pediatricians available from state line to state line. Providers include Hancock County Pediatrics, Harrison County’s Memorial Hospital of Gulfport, Garden Park Hospital, Merit Hospital of Biloxi, and on to Singing River’s Children’s Clinic. Most hospitals have pediatric floors and some, such as Memorial, have hospital-based physicians specializing in pediatrics.
Many of our Coast family practitioners will treat children, and there’s also the Coastal Family Health Center system, available for low-income families.
At 1102 42nd Ave. in Gulfport, the Harrison County Health Department provides, by appointment, childhood immunizations for children with Medicaid, insurance, and for the uninsured. Up until this year, the department also provided child health appointments, but, according to Marie Sammons, RN, at the clinic, “Due to budget and staff shortage, we’ve had to cancel that service, though we’re hoping to resume if the state provides more budget.”
In fact, the state’s recent budget cuts to the public health service has created dramatic cuts in many services. However, still available at the Health Department, the WIC program (Women and Infant Children) provides nutrition counseling and supplemental foods and formula for those on Medicaid, food stamps, or those of low income.
Although blessed with many pediatricians, the Mississippi Coast has long suffered from a shortage of pediatric specialists. The state’s only pediatric hospital, Batson Hospital, is in Jackson, and is associated with the medical center there. Up until this year, children needing specialty care required referrals to Mobile, Jackson, or New Orleans, which was an inconvenience for the parents and patients involved.
To help remedy this, in January of this year, Mississippi’s University Medical Center opened “Children’s of Mississippi,” a new clinic here on the Mississippi Coast in the Cedar Lake area, offering board certified pediatric specialty care.
According to the clinic’s medical director, Dr. John Purvis, there are now eight pediatric subspecialists commuting at least once a month from Jackson, including cardiology, child development, hematology, nephrology, neurology, oncology, orthopedics, and pulmonology.
Annie Oeth, the clinic’s public affairs representative, reports that the clinic is staffed five days a week, by pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Troutman, and pediatric neurologist, Dr. Lee, with the other specialists coming in on a less frequent basis.
No one likes to see a child suffering. Take advantage of the pediatric services available here on the Mississippi Coast. Be sure your child’s immunizations are current, and that he has a pediatrician who is familiar with his health needs.
A happy healthy child is a joy to all.
Philip L. Levin, M.D. is a Coast-based physician and writer. He is the author of numerous award-winning stories and poems, many nonfiction articles, and eight published books, including two children’s books.