On a snowy winter day in January 1973, the move was made from the former Felix Long Memorial Hospital to another small facility in Oktibbeha County on land donated by the families of J.T. Garrard and Curby Steadman. Today, the facility—which has expanded dramatically over the years—is known as OCH Regional Medical Center. This year, OCH celebrates its 40th anniversary as it progresses into the future.
According to OCH Administrator/CEO Richard Hilton, the Medical Center is proud to celebrate its long history and recognize the physicians and employees that enable it to abide by its motto of “Advanced Medicine. Compassionate Care.”
OCH started out very small with only offering three specialties, 11 active admitters, two operating rooms and a cafeteria that only served two meals per day. When it opened, OCH was only licensed to have 60 beds.
The history of OCH is best seen through the eyes of the people who make the hospital as great as it is today. Gloria Larry, RN, is one such employee who has worked at the Medical Center for the entire 40 years of its existence. Larry began her work at the hospital as a ward clerk and now works as a registered nurse in recovery. As she remembered those first couple years, she recollected the friendships she had made and recalled that everyone knew each other because the hospital was much smaller back then.
“In March of 1973, I began working at OCH. Unlike today, everyone worked on all floors. Throughout the 40 years, I have been able to get to know the doctors and my coworkers and build relationships with them. Ever since I started working here, there has been a family environment, which is something that I have really enjoyed,” Larry said.
Over the years, many departments have relocated to different areas of the facility. At one time, trailers were even used to house administration, accounting, nursing administration, social services, performance improvement, infection control and marketing. Additionally, before the Healthplex was built, Wellness Connection and Cardiac Rehab were located in the hospital’s basement.
Larry stated that over the last 40 years, not only the building has changed, but also the services provided.
“Many more services are available now than were 40 years ago. Today, OCH has many more doctors, departments and specialties than it had back then,” Larry said.
Now a 96-bed facility, OCH offers 19 specialties and employs just over 600 people, making it the second largest employer in the county. For the past several years, OCH has had about 26,000 emergency room patients each year and almost 30,000 outpatient visitors each year. There are currently six ICU beds and around 100 staff physicians that providing care with state-of-the-art equipment and advanced technology.
Jennifer Gregory, CEO of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership said that for each of the past 40 years, OCH Regional Medical Center has reached out to the community to make it a safer and healthier place for residents to live and work.
“OCH Regional Medical Center also has a history of giving back to the Starkville community over the last 40 years, and we’ve come to count on them as a partner in our community and economic development efforts,” Gregory said.
“The presence of OCH Regional Medical Center has not only impacted our community economically as one of our largest employers in the county, but also, because of the ever expanding specialties and care being offered, it has assisted our efforts with recruiting new residents to the City of Starkville and Oktibbeha County. Prospective students, athletes, faculty, alumni, and families looking to relocate have piece of mind knowing that an elite and expansive medical community exists should they need healthcare,” she continued.
Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum is also appreciative of the services provided by the Medical Center. He congratulates OCH for its 40 years of service and expresses his gratitude for its contributions that not only affect the community, but also the university and its students.
“I am proud to say I was born at the former Felix Long Memorial Hospital in Starkville, and my parents brought me ‘home’ to faculty housing on the MSU campus wrapped in a maroon and white blanket. From my role as a husband and father to my role as the president of Mississippi State University, I have a keen appreciation of the value of having a state-of-the-art medical center in this community. Without the availability of world-class medical technology and health care providers, the growth and development of both the community and the University would be greatly impeded,” Keenum said.
Because of its local ownership, OCH is able to invest its resources back into the community in order to impact virtually every facet of life for the region’s residents. In 2012, over $2.5 million in charity care was provided by the Medical Center. Hilton stated that the total economic impact of OCH is around $64 million annually and that it adds around 390 jobs to the community outside of the hospital. He added that the Medical Center strives to give back to the community through providing needed services, screenings and education to residents.
“The hospital is here to meet the community’s needs in health care through the delivery of programs and services. Whenever there is a need for medical care we are here to assist the patient, as well as the doctors who are providing the services,” Hilton said.
OCH focuses much attention to keeping up-to-date with the latest technology and to recruiting well-trained staff to be able to provide the best care for its patients.
“OCH works hard to offer the latest technology. Staff members are continually trained on new services that are provided and updated technology. Additionally, our medical staff is re-credentialed every two years upon obtaining the required continuing education hours.” Hilton said.
OCH Chief of Staff, Jim Brown, MD, said that he looks forward to the years to come as the medical center progresses and strives to better serve the community.
“The medical staff of OCH Regional Medical Center joins with the board of trustees, hospital administration and staff in celebrating forty years of exceptional care to Starkville and this region. We look forward to partnering with the hospital for many years to come in service to our patients and our community,” Brown said.