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Rentfro to be appointed interim CEO at Natchez Regional Medical Center

NATCHEZ — Donny Rentfro will be appointed to take the reins as interim chief executive officer at Natchez Regional Medical Center today.

Rentfro, the hospital’s chief administrative officer, will be stepping in temporarily to fill the position vacated by CEO Bill Heburn, whose three-year contract expired Thursday, NRMC Board of Trustees Chair the Rev. Leroy White said.

Prior to working at NRMC, Rentfro was the CEO of both Riverland Medical Center in Ferriday and Natchez Community Hospital.

“Donny has been a CEO before, he has that CEO experience already, so it will be an easy transition for him to move from chief administrative officer to chief executive officer,” White said. “Donny is established in the community, and people know him.”

White said he did not believe transitioning CEOs will have an impact on the process of selling the hospital because whoever ultimately buys the hospital will likely bring in their own administrators.

And while Heburn was involved in some of the discussions about the hospital sale, White said Rentfro was also involved and the hospital is not losing any knowledge of the process with the change.

“Bill has been informed every step of the way, and in the last couple of months we have had Donny at everything (Bill was) so he would be aware and abreast of it all,” White said.

Adams County Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell likewise expressed a belief that the changeover would not affect the potential for sale.

“We still have administrators there who are very familiar with the mechanics of the hospital, such as Chief Financial Officer Charles Mock and (Rentfro), so I don’t think there will be an impact at all,” he said.

Grennell said Heburn’s retirement had been planned for some time.

“His whole mission when coming here was to get the hospital out of the bankruptcy status it was in, and he did achieve that,” Grennell said. “I like Bill and I hate to see him retire, but I can totally understand that.”

NRMC declared bankruptcy in 2008. Heburn was hired in 2010, and the county-owned hospital was released from bankruptcy in 2012.

Adams County’s board of supervisors decided to try to sell the hospital after hospital administrators and trustees expressed concern that changes in the health care industry in coming years will make operating an independent, rural hospital extremely difficult.

The county-owned hospital is in negotiations with two potential stalking-horse bidders for its sale.

A stalking-horse bidder agrees to a sale price, which serves as a base price when the hospital goes to an open auction. If no one outbids the stalking horse price, the sale automatically goes to the bidder.

White said Healthcare Management Partners CEO Scott Phillips — who has been hired as a consultant to help with the sale — met with financial institutions in regard to the process this week.

“I am hoping very soon to hear some good news from him,” White said.

Two other health care systems have expressed interest in participating in the sale process when the hospital goes to the open market.

An HMP-led effort to sell the hospital in 2008 was unsuccessful.

NRMC was built in the late 1950s with $800,000 in local funds, the rest of its $2.4 million construction underwritten with state and federal monies. It opened in 1960 as Jefferson Davis Memorial Hospital.

NRMC does not receive tax support and has been financially independent since 1974, but it is backed by a 5-mill standby tax required by the Mississippi Development Bank in 2006 when the hospital asked for the MDB to reissue its revenue bond.

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