RICHTON, Miss. (WHLT) – Forrest General Hospital took ownership of Perry County General Hospital and The Doctor’s Clinic in Richton on January 1.

The acquisition provides Forrest General its sixth rural hospital. Owned by Forrest Health, hospital staff said they are ready to grow rural hospital volumes.

“What we want to do is upgrade the equipment, facility and hopefully gain the trust of those who may not be using the facility already. We want to grow the volumes at the facility, do everything we can to expand our services where needed and grow our rural health clinic volumes,” said Regional Administrator Bryan Maxie.

According to the Mississippi Department of Health, 79% of all hospital stays for residents of small, rural areas occurred outside of their home county in 2018. One rural neighbor said he had to drive 40 minutes to Hattiesburg when he cut off three of his fingers.

“I cut three of my fingers almost completely off and I came to the local hospital and there was nothing they could do about it. They bandaged me up and all they could do was send me to Hattiesburg. Hattiesburg did a really good job, they helped me out. I feel like the community would be better off if they had local support for the hospitals. Especially for accidents, care and emergencies,” said one rural neighbor.

Recent research shows that Mississippi’s infrastructure of rural health care is rapidly deteriorating. According to a 2019 analysis of rural hospitals’ financial stability, nearly half of Mississippi’s rural hospitals are experiencing sever financial difficulties.