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Recent news sheds light on NRMC

Over the past several weeks I have had conversations with several employees of Natchez Regional Medical Center, who have wanted to discuss the numerous concerns which the employees there face. Each thanked me for making an effort to shed some light onto the proceedings that NRMC officials have been conducting behind closed doors for so long now.

The various topics of discussion were, of course, employee retirement benefits, benefits due to employees Benefit Management Systems and the employees’ lack of confidence in NRMC’s management and leadership. I could feel the anxiety that goes with the uncertainty many of them now face in whether or not they will have jobs in the near future, as we spoke.

But, to a person, the people with whom I have spoken remain dedicated to providing the best care possible for their patients. Though I have as yet failed at shedding any real light onto the closed door proceedings, I want them to know I will continue to fight for them. And I would like to publicly thank them for their dedication!

Over the past several days, as I have thought about my next Letter to the Editor, there have been items of note that have appeared in The Natchez Democrat worth discussing, such as the $627,588 owed to NRMC/Benefit Management Systems, Inc. Of note to me in particular, because that number is higher than what was originally filed in Bankruptcy Petition. It demonstrates things getting worse as we go forward.

Not to mention the article on Monday, which stated that the Bankruptcy Court would hold a hearing in the Federal Court Room in Natchez on Thursday to consider appointing an outside Ombudsman in the matter.

And then came the Tuesday headline “Hospital lost $7.6M in 2013,” with the sub-heading of “Audit includes $9.79M for lawsuit settlement.” The concern on the faces of supervisors Mike Lazarus and David Carter was evident in the accompanying photo. At least we finally got some info on the settlement amount, for what it’s worth now!

The Supervisors had received the long over-due audit of NRMC’s finances from the Horne Group. Since they had filed bankruptcy, I am sure everyone expected bad news, but the cold, hard numbers in black and white were simply shocking. At least to me.

The audit evoked comments from some heretofore unheard from parties. Trustee Lee Martin stated the Trustees were not told of the RAC audits until August, when the hospital received its “big hit.” He also stated since August the hospital has a contractor to appeal and monitor RAC audits. NRMC CFO Charles Mock said the appeal process for RAC audits prior to August was unorganized. He alluded to now departed, former CEO Bill Heburn as the culprit for that.

Current CEO Donnie Rentfro said RAC audits have been ongoing since 2009. Let’s see, RAC audits have been ongoing since 2009, but the Trustees didn’t know about them until August 2013. And now, these RAC audits are being blamed as the major cause of NRMC’s financial woes. Hmmm! I am told RAC audits denied payments for improperly filed or fraudulent Medicare/Medicaid claims. Should that be a problem if you file your claims properly? I would not think so.

Of course, when supervisor Lazarus brought up the issue of an outside ombudsman, attorney Brown immediately suggested the Supervisors move into Executive Session. A bankruptcy judge should need no more evidence than this article to immediately appoint an outside ombudsman in this matter.

 

Chuck Fields is an Adams County resident.