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NRMC bankruptcy petition filed; Supervisors meeting with hospital board

NATCHEZ — Natchez Regional Medical Center filed its Chapter 9 bankruptcy petition Wednesday, and the hospital’s trustees will meet with the Adams County Board of Supervisors today.

Hospital attorney Walter Brown’s office said Wednesday the bankruptcy petition was filed, but no copy of the filing was available on the Public Access to Court Electronic Records database Wednesday evening.

Brown and hospital board chairman the Rev. Leroy White did not return calls Wednesday. The board met during the day.

Click here for pdf of bankruptcy documents.

The hospital announced in February it would seek bankruptcy after administrators said its financial liabilities exceeded its assets by approximately $3 million. The petition is the first step in asking the federal court to grant the hospital bankruptcy status.

The announcement came after more than a half-year of marketing the hospital for sale. Hospital representatives said at the time of the bankruptcy announcement, a sale was in negotiation, a statement that was reaffirmed this month.

The hospital trustees are scheduled to meet with the county supervisors at 9 a.m. today at the hospital.

Supervisor Calvin Butler said he hopes long-standing financial questions the supervisors have will be answered at the meeting. The supervisors asked for financial information earlier in the year, but Butler said to his knowledge no supervisors had received the information yet.

“I am looking forward to looking and seeing what has been going on and what has gotten us here,” he said.

“When we started (the sale process), everything was supposed to be good and it was a sure sale, and then all of a sudden we get a bankruptcy notice.”

Butler said he has been told the supervisors will get the hospital’s audit, which will cover an extended period from September 2012 to this month.

The audit, which was due March 1 but has not been previously filed, covers the longer period, because the auditors had to do a study of the hospital’s finances so NRMC can continue some of its financing practices as it enters into bankruptcy, Butler said.

“I hope everything that needs to come out will come out,” he said.

Supervisor David Carter said he looks forward to hearing what will be shared and what will be made public record with the filing of the audit and the bankruptcy proceedings.

“I know the basics, but I think every citizen has a right to know some basic stuff that they have been excluded from in the past eight months,” he said.

Supervisor Mike Lazarus said his hope with the bankruptcy is everybody gets the money owed to them.

“I hate that it has come to this for a second time,” he said. “The hospital needs to move on, for the employee’s sake and for everybody else. The sooner we can get the county out of the hospital business, the better.”

Supervisors Darryl Grennell and Angela Hutchins could not be reached for comment.

NRMC opened in 1960 as Jefferson Davis Memorial Hospital. Its $2.4 million construction was underwritten by an $800,000 local contribution and state and federal funds.

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

The county supervisors, who have to approve any action to sell the facility, appoint the hospital’s volunteer trustees. The board of trustees includes the Rev. Leroy White, John Serafin, Dr. Linda Godley, Bill Ernst, Lionel Stepter, Lee Martin and Dr. Jennifer Russ.