| By John Howell Sr.
PHNS is on target with plans to renovate the old Wal-Mart building to become the Batesville Regional Service Center of PHNS, Advisory Service Division President Henry Stovall said this week.
Twenty job openings will be announced at the first of November, the PHNS president said. The openings will include medical record coders, medical transcriptionists and administrative support positions. Applications will be handled through Batesville’s WIN Job Center at 103-16 Woodland Drive, he added.
The affiliation of Tri-Lakes Medical Center and PHNS was announced in August. Tri-Lakes will become the first hospital customer for the Batesville Regional Service Center. Employees of Tri-Lakes’ business office and medical records departments became employees of PHNS on Monday, Stovall said.
Internal renovations in the old Wal-Mart building on Keating Road will begin during the first week in November, and a ribbon cutting ceremony is tentatively scheduled there for January 12, Stovall said.
Stovall said this week has been devoted to planning utilization of the space to be remodeled as well as meeting with Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons. The PHNS official praised the work of Simmons and the Partnership for coordination between local and state government officials.
"This has been a dream project," the Partnership CEO said. "Everything that might have been an obstacle has just melted away."
Stovall is also meeting with officials of Northwest Mississippi Community College (NWCC) to plan utilization of the college’s medical technology programs to allow student internships that will lead to jobs following graduation.
"Right now there’s a nationwide need for nationally-credentialed medical records coders," Stovall said. Where the appropriate required medically-related curriculums are taught, there is little opportunity for hands-on experience, he continued. Through Northwest, the Batesville Regional Service Center can provide the hands-on experience, mentoring, training and then hiring, he said.
Stovall said he also hopes to locate medical coders, transcriptionists and administrative personnel who are commuting to the Memphis area who and who are interested in working closer to home. The PHNS official said that he also hopes to reach "people in Mississippi working as medical coders, probably underpaid, who haven’t had a chance to become nationally certified." These people can also receive additional training, mentoring with increased pay and benefits, he said.
PHNS describes itself as an "innovative healthcare services company that provides strategic solutions in information technology, health information management and patient financial services to over 400 hospitals and healthcare customers across the nation," according to its Web site, www.phns.com. PHNS plans for Batesville to become a regional center for hospitals in Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama and northern Louisiana, Stovall said.
In its agreement with the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), PHNS will create a minimum of 120 jobs, Stovall said. "Our internal goal is 150 jobs in the service center," he added.
MDA has offered financial incentives through rebates and tax exemptions if PHNS complies with the employment goals for the Batesville center, Panola Partnership Director Sonny Simmons said. They include reaching the minimum 120 jobs and paying at least 125 percent of the county’s average wage rate, Simmons added.
"This adds an element of diversity to our community," Simmons said, offering highly skilled jobs with commensurate rates of pay.
Stovall said that factors contributing to the PHNS decision to establish the regional service center in Batesville included its location on Interstate 55 and near the Memphis International Airport, and Tri-Lakes CEO Ray Shoemaker who "was one of the primary reasons we chose Batesville."
"Without Momentum Mississippi we would not have qualified" for tax rebates and exemptions through the MDA, the PHNS official added, referring to Gov. Haley Barbour’s economic development package passed in a special session of the legislature last year.
Stovall said that PHNS is negotiating a 10-year lease for the old Wal-Mart location.
"I hope this sends a pretty strong message to the community," Stovall continued. "We’re not passing through."