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LeMay deal could harm recruitment

County-owned Natchez Regional Medical Center’s dispute with a seemingly well-loved cardiologist has become a front-and-center issue in the public’s conscious.

Dr. Brad LeMay, who works for the Jackson Heart Clinic, came to Natchez a few years ago when NRMC entered into a contract with Jackson Heart to provide services in Natchez. At the time the partnership seemed perfect. LeMay has family ties to the region and has said he loves Natchez.

Now, NRMC contends renewing the contract isn’t in the hospital’s best interest. It’s too expensive, they say, so the hospital wants to cut ties with Jackson Heart.

Hospital leaders had hoped LeMay would play along and take a less-lucrative contract — without being affiliated with Jackson Heart — and stay in Natchez. LeMay said, regretfully, he’s packing his bags and heading back to Arkansas.

The problem is that a great number of his patients don’t want him to leave town. The ensuing drama has caused a public relations headache for the hospital, one they’d be wise to treat quickly.

Perhaps if the hospital and its medical foundation publicly cost-justified all expenses, residents could see how their hospital works more clearly.

The challenge is that, rightly or wrongly, the majority of the public seems to trust LeMay more than they trust the hospital’s board or its administrators. That’s understandable, since many residents can point to friends and relatives who would not be alive if not for LeMay’s care. That’s not the case with the hospital CEO or members of the hospital’s board.

Without taking sides, letting a seemingly good physician who wants to live here actually leave town would seem a shame.

Our community has struggled for years to recruit physicians to the area. If this issue, which has now become quite public, isn’t resolved soon, it could stand to harm physician recruitment for a long time to come.