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Supervisors requested to meet with Natchez Regional Hospital board

NATCHEZ — The Adams County Board of Supervisors expects to meet this week with Natchez Regional Medical Center’s board of trustees.

Supervisors say the meeting is at the request of the hospital board, and will be used to discuss the county-owned hospital’s plans for the future and might include discussions of NRMC’s settlement with its former management company.

The hospital sued Quorum Health Resources for $42 million in 2009, alleging that QHR’s management of the hospital from the 1990s until 2008 bankrupted the hospital. NRMC has since exited bankruptcy, and in December the lawsuit was settled before it went to trial. The federal judge who approved the settlement sealed it, presumably at the request or agreement of both sides.

Though they appoint the hospital trustees, the supervisors have to date not been apprised of the settlement.

Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said when he goes into the meeting, he just wants to know about the settlement so he can be sure the hospital got its fair share in the matter.

“I just want to make sure they actually had a good type of settlement,” Grennell said. “Other than that, I don’t plan to try to micromanage it; they have a board of trustees, seven members that are capable competent and volunteering their time. They are all great people and I don’t plan to tell them what do with the money because I know they are going to do what is in the best interest of the hospital.”

Supervisor Calvin Butler said he was interested in finding out if the board had plans to take the potential liability for some of the hospital’s debt off of the county.

While the hospital is self-funded and does not receive taxpayer money from Adams County, its revenue bonds have been backed by a 5-mill standby and $875,000 letter of credit from the county.

“We need to be sure we are not being held liable for something that was not taken care of with this lawsuit money,” Butler said.

Supervisor Angela Hutchins said she would also attend the meeting and would address some concerns to the hospital trustees.

But Supervisor Mike Lazarus said that — while he would attend — if finding out about the sealed lawsuit means that he has to sign a confidentiality agreement, he won’t be finding out about the lawsuit.

“I said I would not sign a confidentiality agreement,” Lazarus said. “I feel it should be public knowledge.”

One issue the supervisors will have to address is what they will do if the hospital trustees decide to make the meeting a closed-door meeting in light of the sealed nature of settlement. While hospital boards are not subject to most public meetings laws, boards of supervisors only have a few times when they can close the doors to the public.

Those are when discussing industrial prospects, the purchase of property, pending litigation or personnel matters.

Any time a quorum of the supervisors are gathered in one place that gathering is considered an open meeting — in Adams County’s case, three of five members of the board of supervisors — unless the supervisors claim their gathering qualifies for executive session.

Board attorney Scott Slover said last week he was aware of the potential conflict and that the hospital’s legal counsel was seeking advice about the matter.

Lazarus said for his part he would like the meeting to stay open if the question of closing it arises.

“How would you pick and choose which two (supervisors) would go?” he said. “I wouldn’t want to tell David (Carter) or Calvin or Angela they shouldn’t go, and the press should be there, too,” he said.

Supervisor David Carter could not be reached for comment Friday.