Future of our health care is at stake

Published 12:05am Friday, January 24, 2014

When it comes down to it, there are five people that hold the health care futures of more than 90,000 residents in Natchez, Adams County and the surrounding region.

Whether you are a Natchez Regional Medical Center user or not, any decision that affects the future of the hospital will affect the health care of nearly every person in the Miss-Lou.

It will be Adams County Supervisors Mike Lazarus, David Carter, Darryl Grennell, Calvin Butler and Angela Hutchins, not the Natchez Regional Medical Center hospital board, its CEO or even its board attorney who make the final decision for the hospital’s future.

Whether or not it will be sold is ultimately the decision of the supervisors.

To be sure, the hospital trustees, its leadership and its consultants have guided the hospital through the current selling process. They are the ones that recommended the stalking-horse bidding method. They are the ones that reviewed the current offer to buy the hospital and they are the ones who decided Wednesday to pursue making a counter offer to the current bidder.

At the same time, the supervisors have approved the process both actively by voting to approve the current hospital consultant Scott Phillips, the stalking horse bidder method and other critical points in the selling process and passively by staying on the sidelines as the hospital trustees lead the effort.

From the outside, it appears as if the supervisors have decided to take a wait-and-see attitude, leaving the decisions to the hospital board and its consultant. Some supervisors have expressed skepticism throughout the process only to give their blessing when their vote counted.

If it is true that the hospital’s days are numbered as former hospital CEO Bill Heburn told the board in 2013, a wait-and-see attitude may either end up being a death sentence for the county facility or force the supervisors to take a deal that will cost the county millions of dollars.

It is hard to know anything about the efforts to sell the hospital because most of the information regarding the sale has been barred from public view.

What little information that has been revealed can only be looked upon as propaganda given that previous presentations a little more than a year ago  assured the public everything was going well financially, when most recent accounts show the hospital sinking more and more into debt.

With all of the secrecy surrounding the hospital sale — not to mention a reported multi-million dollar settlement the public will never know about — residents are left to trust their elected officials will ensure whatever decision is made about the hospital is done in the best interest of the county and Natchez Regional employees and their families.

In the national health care debate, much was said about how much Uncle Sam should stay out of the health care business, telling citizens which doctors they can see, determining what procedures patients can get and controlling health care costs. The decision the supervisors will soon take about Natchez Regional Medical Center has the potential to affect all that and more for nearly every local resident.

The stakes are that high.

 

Ben Hillyer is the design editor for The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at ben.hillyer@natchgezdemocrat.com.