Hospital to refinance old bonds

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 15, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; The Natchez Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees has asked Adams County supervisors to seek approximately $28 million in bonds to be used for refinancing old bonds and purchasing new equipment for the county-owned hospital. &8220;There is $11 million remaining from a 1996 bond (to be refinanced), and the board wants to borrow $8 million for new equipment,&8221; said Walter Brown, board attorney. In addition, another $7 million will go to pay off current notes that are due. And another $1.9 million will be set aside in a debt service reserve fund, required by law. Jeff Wesselman, CEO at Natchez Regional, said paying off the old capital debt and other notes in this way will provide better interest rates for the hospital.

&8220;It&8217;s a good business decision to roll all of this into one and get the best rates,&8221; he said. &8220;We&8217;ll essentially take on $8 million in new debt, and it will increase our annual payments by $130,000.&8221; The $8 million will go toward purchase of a 64-slice CT scanner, a new hospital-wide digital imaging system and refurbishing of patient rooms. &8220;We&8217;re going to have a completely modern facility here, and we&8217;re excited about providing state-of-the-art care with state-of-the-art employees,&8221; he said. Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said his board unanimously approved the request.

&8220;It&8217;s very important for the hospital to have the best quality equipment to give the best quality care,&8221; Grennell said. Further, the refinancing will provide lower interest rates on the outstanding 1996 money, Grennell said. The bond request should go before the Mississippi Development Bank on July 12. Brown said funding could be complete by mid August. Like hospitals across the country, Natchez Regional has struggled with finances in recent years, Brown said. &8220;First, there are the reductions in reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid on the federal and state level, causing all hospitals to have to tighten up,&8221; he said. &8220;Second, there is intense competition here in this community with three institutions competing for limited local dollars.&8221; He referred to Natchez Community Hospital and Riverland Medical Center in Vidalia. &8220;And third, there is the loss of key industries in the area and the continuing pre-tort reform atmosphere. All of these things are coming to a head.&8221; Wesselman said employees at Natchez Regional have been &8220;the best anywhere&8221; during the years the hospital has had to watch expenses. &8220;After four consecutive years of having more than a million-dollar loss each year, we&8217;re making good strides in improving our numbers,&8221; he said. &8220;We plan on being here for Adams County citizens and those from surrounding areas now and into the future.&8221;

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