By STEVEN NALLEY
Vel Matthew-Smith is commuting so her patients don’t have to make the drive.
Matthew-Smith is a West Point native who became an oncologist with Baptist Memorial Hospital in January. BMH recently developed an agreement with OCH Regional Medical Center that will enable Matthew-Smith’s patients to see her in Starkville. While she will still live in Columbus, she said, the trip will be worth it if it helps her patients.
“They actually are really excited,” Matthew-Smith said. “It’s huge for them because it’s a quality-of-life issue as well as a financial one. Some of them are moms with kids in school here (in the Starkville area).”
OCH recently leased a building in its Doctors Park community to Baptist Memorial Hospital for a new cardiology and oncology clinic, which celebrated its grand opening Thursday afternoon.
OCH Chief Operating Officer Mike Andrews said this is not the first time OCH has leased its property to BMH, with BMH Oncologist Wail Alnas previously housed in another, smaller OCH clinic.
“(Alnas is) going from about 2,200 square feet to 4,500 square feet,” Andrews said. “We routinely work with other providers on a variety of programs and services. We might not lease clinics very often, but we work with them to provide services that may not be offered in the community. We have always had a very good relationship with Baptist.”
Andrews said OCH has also worked with North Mississippi Medical Center on different services without leasing property, and it has worked for many years with BMH radiation oncologist Robert Jones to treat prostate cancer.
OCH recognizes the need for the oncology and cardiology services BMH will offer to the western Golden Triangle region through this clinic, Andrews said, and he is glad to make the space available for BMH.
“It’s very convenient for patients,” Andrews said. “It’s service the community has wanted for some time. They don’t have to drive a certain distance to get service; they can get it right here in Starkville. It also shows our commitment to meeting the patients’ needs.”
Tom Bailey, imaging and cancer center director of Baptist Hospital Golden Triangle, said patients switching to the Starkville Clinic from its counterpart in Columbus come from not only Starkville, but also Louisville, Eupora, Noxapater and other cities to Starkville’s west.
“A significant portion of our cancer patients live west of Columbus,” Bailey said. “If you’re driving from Louisville, this would be a much shorter drive than driving (to and from) Columbus.”
Bailey said the new Starkville clinic will cause no changes to the Columbus oncology and cardiology department, because the demand for both is continually growing.
“We were reaching the limits of our capacity over there (in Columbus) as it was,” Bailey said. “As a matter of fact, we are expanding our (chemotherapy) infusion center over at the hospital also.”
Bailey said the building OCH has leased to BMH is divided into two sides: an infusion center for chemotherapy and a clinic that will switch between housing an oncologist and a cardiologist on different days of each week.
“You do that until your volume reaches the point where you need to have two separate (clinics for oncology and cardiology),” Bailey said. “It’s cost-effective when you’re beginning. As we grow, there may be more people coming over here to accommodate the increased work load.”