Not-for-profit may be million dollar idea

Published 12:33 am Sunday, March 30, 2008

Physically, Dr. Kenneth Stubbs is not a large man, but as my late grandfather would say, “I wouldn’t want to mess with him, either.”

The Natchez internist is passionate about a number of things in life: his family, his work and even his love of Cathedral soccer.

But what’s most intriguing about Stubbs is that he’s a man who doesn’t mind saying what’s on his heart.

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And right now, he’s worrying over the future of Natchez Regional Medical Center.

The hospital has been in the news recently after announcing in late February that it planned to restate its 2007 financial statements to show a substantial financial loss. Prior to that the year was believed to have been a profitable one for NRMC.

Stubbs and a large group of Natchez-area physicians met last week to discuss the future of the county-owned hospital, the pros and cons of each option facing the hospital and how the physicians might help.

From an outsider’s perspective, the united involvement of physicians is reminiscent of the early days of the tort reform movement in Mississippi. Physicians such as Stubbs, Dr. Thomas Carey and the late Dr. Mal Morgan, among others, began planting tort reform seeds.

At the time, some physicians didn’t believe the state’s powerful trial lawyer lobby could be held at bay long enough to get a tort reform bill passed.

Stubbs and others couldn’t be deterred, however.

Our local physicians’ involvement helped propel the issue to statewide prominence and ultimately change state law.

On the surface, the current interest in Natchez Regional shows similarities to the tort reform movement, but with one key difference, Stubbs says.

“Everyone agrees that we need one hospital,” he said. “That’s the end of the commonality. From that point on there’s not a united front.”

But if we’re to become a one-hospital town, what form will the remaining hospital take?

Stubbs has a definite opinion.

Hospitals need to be not-for-profit ones, he says.

“I’m extremely passionate about it,” Stubbs said. “When you’re at the whim of a stockholder company and their stock goes down and they have to do something to make things right, they can do whatever they want.”

The county-run option isn’t a good one, he says.

“County-run hospitals have problems in a lot of places,” he says.

The notion of a doctor-owned hospital doesn’t seem good, either, he says.

“Physicians themselves, largely, are not business people and would need the help of a management person,” Stubbs said.

“Plus, I think we all have our little niches that we want to protect and in my opinion that makes it difficult for us to run a hospital,” he said.

Despite how some corporately-owned hospitals might be motivated, Stubbs believes hospitals should be healthcare centers, not profit centers.

“A hospital is not designed to make mega bucks,” he said.

For now, the hospital’s best bet is to file bankruptcy, allowing it to keep operating until the next step is planned.

“I think right now Regional hospital will stabilize and we just have to see what’s better in the long run,” Stubbs said, adding that converting the hospital to a non-for-profit venture is possible. “We’re at a crossroads and we can make this happen.”

And, if Stubbs says something is possible, I believe him. If you don’t, ask a couple of trial lawyers just what a group of determined Natchez doctors can do.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or