One hospital enough for Natchez

Published 11:44 pm Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I love Natchez Regional Medical Center. It is apparent that I love it because I was a department head there for over 30 years. The work was noble and the science was enthralling. I have many good friends working there still and I hate to see them agonizing again on what may be going to happen to them and their families. The scuttlebutt there is once again rampant, I feel.

Several years ago (1985, maybe), NRMC wanted to purchase Natchez Community Hospital and Community was prepared to sell to them. Upon the purchase of the other hospital, we had worked out a proposal for International Paper Company to supply all of their health needs. This could have ultimately been a determining factor in IP’s decision to not leave Natchez. However, since a county hospital (NRMC) was involved, the negotiations got entangled in senseless decisions orchestrated by politicians. At the time, Phillip West was a state senator and he, primarily, stood in the door to block the transaction. We, as department heads, went to a meeting with him to ask that the deal be made, but to no avail. “Competition is a good thing,” we were told.

I think things are easier to understand if they can be made analogous to cars. If you live alone and you have two cars, do you need them both? You can use only one; but the other would have to be exercised by driving it occasionally. It would require additional insurance, additional maintenance and additional expenses for supplies when you need only one car. What would you do to alleviate your expenses? Obviously, you would sell one of your cars. Surely you would not ask your neighbor to help you with your expenses on two cars.

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Natchez is a small city of approximately 25,000 people with two fully staffed and competing hospitals — something unheard of in the real world. It is analogous to a lone individual owning two cars. Obviously one car must be sold to cut down on expenses. If the sale is made, it will be unnecessary to ask neighbors to share in the extravagance.

NRMC is still a county hospital that will be used once again, I fear, as political fodder in any negotiations that must be made. How truly unfortunate it is that logical thinking and political posturing are diametrically opposed. Had it not been so, this problem could have been resolved over 20 years ago.

Ed Field

Natchez resident