Hospital contract should be public

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 28, 1999

We’d like tell you today that the management contract between Natchez Regional Medical Center and Quorum Resources Inc. is a good thing.

But, in good conscience, we can’t say if the management agreement is a good move or a bad one for the county-owned hospital for one simple reason -&160;we don’t know enough about the terms and conditions of the contract.

And we’re not alone.

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The Board of Trustees of Natchez Regional Medical Center is charged, at the county supervisors’ direction, to run the public hospital as best they see fit. And, under Mississippi law, their meetings and negotiations are not required to be open to the public.

That means the trustees don’t have to divulge the terms of their management contract with Quorum even though nothing prevents them from doing so. Doing so would be a smart move for them.

Board members have been reluctant in the past to divulge even the most basic information about the hospital, even as it struggled financially under the burdens created by the 1997 Balanced Budget Act.

And, when the hospital’s board turns quiet, the local rumor mill begins to compensate for lack of official comment or information.

And the signing of a new contract with Quorum is no exception to that practice.

The management company’s relationship with the local hospital has been under scrutiny for more than a year now, and the trustees even entertained the option of seeking proposals from other management companies before negotiating this contract with Quorum – the only company to offer a bid on the management.

By not releasing the terms of that agreement – from the basic management costs to the total financial impact on the institution, the trustees leave the door open for speculation and criticism.

Instead, board members are missing an opportunity to present a powerful statement about the investment they are making in our public hospital – and about the thought processes and considerations that play a role in their oversight of the hospital.

We, like many business people in Adams County, believe that sound, professional management is critical for the success of Natchez Regional. But we, too, would like more information and public accountability from the board of trustees.