Photo: Olive Branch Mayor Ken Adams discusses local issues with Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and state Sen. Dr. David Parker over lunch at Casa Mexicana in Olive Branch. (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann made a stop in Olive Branch Tuesday to speak with city officials and also visit with state Sen. Dr. David Parker (R-Olive Branch). On Hosemann’s mind was to learn about local needs, such as additional funding for infrastructure, like state Highway 305 and the Olive Branch Airport.
But Hosemann also had healthcare on his mind as he continued his campaign for reelection. The Lt. Governor is facing a primary challenge from state Sen. Chris McDaniel and Tiffany Longino on the Republican side and D. Ryan Grover is awaiting as a Democrat on the November general election ballot.
Hosemann said recent talks with hospital administrators, including leaders at Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto in Southaven, have highlighted a need to fix a crisis in healthcare.
“They’re losing money,” Hosemann said about hospitals in Mississippi. “There was a statement from one hospital administrator that not one hospital is making money. The (insurance) reimbursement rate has pretty much stayed the same but costs have gone up.”
Costs and capacity are main concerns, said Hosemann, saying hearings this fall ahead of the legislative session will look at the “whole ball of wax,” as far as healthcare is concerned.
“We’ll start this fall with studies looking at the cost of pharmaceuticals,” Hosemann said. “Our independent pharmacists are really suffering and you see hospitals, doctors, mental health, the whole ball of wax that involves healthcare needs to be addressed. We’ll be looking at everything from mental health to pharmacy and everything from doctors to hospitals, nurses, whatever.”
Some help has come in programs that pay nurses and doctors in rural areas who stay and work in the state for at least five years.
“We passed a bill that would allow community hospitals to merge together and use their assets, having one radiology machine instead of three, for instance, and then shifting their physicians and nurse practitioners around to share their capacity,” Hosemann said, saying legislation for the 2024 session should come out of the public hearings he plans to hold this fall.
Local issues in DeSoto County include transportation needs, such as I-55 and state Highway 305, and growing the Olive Branch Airport, considered one of the busiest facilities in the state.
The airport recently received a $500,000 Mississippi Department of Transportation grant for work on the south apron of the airport, known as Taylor Field.
“The airport in Olive Branch is expanding and we may at some point in time be able to get some regional flights out of that airport to help people getting in and out of here,” Hosemann said.
Away from Olive Branch, Hosemann remarked on the need to push the Commerce Street interchange in Hernando higher on a priority list for repair and/or replacement. He said he has personally inspected the overpass and what he found was not a pretty sight.
“I physically went underneath that and it is horrific,” the Lt. Governor said. “I think it really needs to be a priority for Mississippi to fix that overpass in Hernando. If you look underneath it, it is all washed out and the traffic count is huge. I think that one needs to rise in priority.”
As far as the campaign is concerned, McDaniel remains the main challenger to Hosemann’s push for reelection. But Hosemann points to fundraising success and endorsement support from several organizations. He says voters should look at his record over the last four years.
“We cut taxes by $500 million, we increased education, we gave $100 million to education this year, we cut everybody’s taxes to four percent, $500 million this year,” Hosemann said. “We paid off 12 percent of the state’s debt. We’re shrinking your taxes, we’re paying off your debt, we’re educating your children better, put up money for I-55, put up money for Olive Branch Airport, we’re doing a lot of infrastructure up here, so I’m just hopeful people see what we’re doing and recognize we’re going to do more of the same.”