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NRMC bankruptcy oversight needed

The March 12 headline of The Natchez Democrat read “Board split on NRMC negotiator.” The article detailed the hiring of Healthcare Management Partners to serve as NRMC’s financial advisor for the bankruptcy.

Of course, this is the same group hired in July to lead the recent sales effort, after having lead the unsuccessful previous sales effort in 2008-09.

Scott Phillips, CEO of HMP, said “We weren’t engaged to do a bankruptcy. My firm happens to be experts in the restructuring of hospitals — we restructured (NRMC) in 2008 — but we needed to have our role clarified.”

And clarified it was. His firm will perform its duties as financial advisor at the rate of $460 an hour. This was put forth to be a bargain, since their normal rate for this type of work is $675 an hour.

Gee, thanks Mr. Phillips! By the way, I would like to know where we stand on HMP’s $500,000 cap on fees related to the sales effort?

Purportedly, the recommendation from the NRMC Board to make this “strategic move for the county” as Supervisor Grennell called it, was unanimous. Sometimes I get the feeling these people put their heads together and say “what can we do next that will really make everybody mad?”

Thanks to Supervisors Lazarus and Carter for voting against this hiring of HMP, so at least that vote was not unanimous.

Supervisor Grennell also stated “If we didn’t select (HMP as financial advisor), according to our legal bankruptcy counsel, we would have to go through a process that would cost the county a significant amount of money.”

With Phillips in a similar capacity for the previous bankruptcy proceedings, the court declined to appoint an ombudsman, the article read.

Since they have been somewhat vague about the costly process the county would have to go through, I can only assume they mean the process of the court appointing an ombudsman.

I would like to know exactly which legal counsel put forth the notion that this is the proper way to proceed this time?

Now, I have heard of an ombudsman, and thought I had a pretty good handle on what an ombudsman is. But just to make sure, I pulled out my trusty Webster’s New World Dictionary and Thesaurus, Second Edition. Therein, an ombudsman is defined as a deputy/public official appointed to investigate citizens’ complaints.

So to me, there it is in a nutshell. These people are trying desperately not to have anyone from outside the existing group, especially anyone with any investigative authority, appointed in this matter.

I suppose that they believe that bankruptcy will stave off any angry creditors, and the hospital will be sold to new owners. They can then pat themselves on the back for a job well done, and go on their merry way, with no one ever knowing what has really gone on behind closed doors.

Hiding behind trying to save the County “a significant amount of money” by keeping an ombudsman from being appointed will not work this time.

In closing, to the Supervisors I will say this, on behalf of myself, and every other person that I know who lives in Adams County and has expressed an opinion on the matter to me: We the people, the citizens of Adams County, the owners of NRMC, the voters that elected you to represent us, demand that you not allow this process to proceed in this manner.

We demand that an outside “ombudsman” be appointed to investigate this matter. Ignore this demand at your own peril, thinking that I am just one nagging voice in The Natchez Democrat.

Far more people than you might imagine are actually paying attention this time around!


Chuck Fields is an Adams County resident.