Board has NRMC, community in mindPublished 12:03am Sunday, September 22, 2013
In recent weeks I have had numerous conversations and questions about the sale of Natchez Regional Medical Center.
While I do support the sale of the hospital, I do struggle with the sale process like many of you do. I have tried to see the positives and negatives to many questions I have been asked and have decided to share my opinion on some of them.
Q. Why does the county want to sell the hospital?
While the supervisors had great reservation about selling one of the county’s most valuable assets, it seems clear that stand-alone public hospitals will face extreme difficulties under the new Affordable Care Act. The decision to sell was not easy but certain issues had to be considered, primarily the medical needs of our citizens and those that use our services, along with the employees that served Natchez Regional for decades through the good times and the bad.
I personally hope to find a solution that enhances our local medical care and still provides careers for those in the health care industry.
Q. Why has the county opened the stalking horse to non-profits only?
This is one concern I have spoken openly about during our conversation with the hospital board. While non-profits do have some advantages, they also have some disadvantages, no property taxes being a big one. I have yet been able to find any research or data to suggest definitively that non-profits provide better health care than for-profits. I personally would like to see the stalking horse bidder open to anyone interested, but our hospital board and consultant are convinced the non-profit route is better.
Q. Why is the lawsuit settlement so secretive?
A federal judge who presided over the case has mandated the settlement be confidential to the point even county supervisors cannot know the agreement unless a confidentially agreement is signed, which we refused to do. Under law if we know about the settlement, every citizen has the right to know about it.
The problem however is even bigger, while it is covered in secrecy; it is still able to be spent, totally unchecked, by the hospital administration. Some supervisors, including myself, find this unacceptable, however under the legal system in which we must abide, little can be done. However, pending a sale, the settlement funds would become a county asset.
Q. Who is overseeing the bidding process?
We have hired a consultant to oversee the sale of the hospital. Our board was split over the decision to hire the chosen consultant, (I was a “no” vote). Nonetheless the hospital board has recommended and the supervisors have agreed to have Healthcare Management Partners represent us through this process.
Time will tell if rehiring them was a good decision, after a failed attempt in 2008. However, so far we have had only one public forum and no one from HMP was even present. We have had no updates on the process from HMP, but we understand several talks with potential buyers are taking place. We have requested a personal update from the president of HMP.
We could be purchased by a hospital system that injects life into our fragile local health care system by bring in new doctors reducing the outflow of patients and providing more jobs in the medical community. Even better, as local doctors have advocated for, we could have a system merge the two hospitals forming one united hospital system in Natchez that creates more jobs, better services and higher quality of health care to all citizens.
However, we could also have a single system purchase us that decides to ship all major procedures to larger hospital systems in Jackson, Baton Rouge or other locations. Thus, reducing the need for more doctors, therefore hurting our local health care needs.
Therefore, we would sell away one of our most valuable assets with little long-term benefit to health care or our financial standing as a county. Or the worst-case scenario would be a hospital shut down.
I can assure you the supervisors are fighting for the first scenario and have community health care needs as our main priority. I give my deepest gratitude to every employee that has ever served at Natchez Regional Medical Center.
Thank you for your dedicated service and passion that has served the people of the Miss-Lou for more than 50 years.
David Carter is the Adams County District 2 supervisor.