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County, public need records before sale

Should Adams County be in the health care business? It’s a question that county supervisors and ultimately county residents must answer soon.

The county plans to meet soon with the board of trustees of county-owned Natchez Regional Medical Center to discuss options for selling the hospital.

Whether or not selling the hospital is in the best interests of the county has yet to be seen. Fortunately, the state of Mississippi has a strict set of guidelines in such situations. The goal is to prevent supervisors from making a bad deal or a rash decision.

That’s wise since once the hospital is sold, it’s unlikely to ever be returned to public hands — unless such a provision is made a part of the sales contract.

County supervisors are wise to consider their options and start the request for proposals process. Supervisors took a preliminary step this week saying they hope to set up a meeting to discuss contingencies with the hospital board.

That’s a good first step, however, for the public — and the supervisors who represent them — to know the true value of the hospital. They’ll need much more information than was provided in the audit synopsis presented to the supervisors earlier this month.

The public needs to see updated financial records. Those would include details about how NRMC and its medical foundation managed to lose money in the last fiscal year. The financial reporting should also include the amount of the out-of-court settlement to which the hospital board and its attorney have been so vehemently keeping hidden.

Through the process, provided all is kept public and above board, the public should be able to see what’s happening and make a determination about what’s best for the county. Then, and only then, can the public offer their thoughts to the supervisors who represent them.