New CEO optimistic about hospital

Published 1:00 am Thursday, May 1, 2008

NATCHEZ — After Monday’s meeting of the Natchez Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees administrators working for the financially strapped hospital have taken on an optimistic tone.

“The hospital is not bankrupt,” new CEO Scott Phillips said.

Phillips, the hospital’s newest CEO, said the hospital is in better condition than many originally thought.

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The hospital is not in its current financial state because of uncompensated care, as previously believed, and has not been harmed by area competitors Phillips said.

Phillips instead described the hospital as having a “cash flow problem.”

The hospital has a very high operational cost relative to its revenue Phillips said.

And while the hospital still plans to purse Chapter 9 bankruptcy it won’t likely officially be declared for up to four months.

Phillips said if the hospital were not publicly owned it would not likely need to file Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

The hospital’s publicly owned status limits the way it can borrow money and use its assets.

In the next few months Phillips said he will prepare a complete bankruptcy package that outlines all of the hospital’s plans to repay debts and get the operational problems which caused the cash flow issues fixed.

Phillips said he plans to present a bankruptcy plan to the court that outlines how each creditor will be repaid “100 cents on the dollar.”

The bankruptcy package will also include the hospital’s plan to restructure operating procedures, including possible staff reductions and renegotiating contracts before entering bankruptcy.

The hospital will also receive an evaluation that will determine its value and a thorough inventory of its equipment.

Hospital board attorney Walter Brown said Phillips is eventually expected to recommend the hospital’s conversion to a non-profit entity.

President of the Adams County Board of Supervisors, Henry Watts, said such a conversion would ultimately need the approval of the supervisors.

The supervisors would have the deciding voice since the hospital is owned by the county.

Before the issue could be brought to the supervisors the decision for non-profit conversion would also need to be voted on by the hospital board.

Chairman of the hospital board Dan Bland said the board has not, as of yet, voted on any such decision.

Between now and the time any board votes on the future of the hospital Phillips will still focus on restructuring the hospital.

Brown said Phillips is expected to recommend the board replace the 5 percent pay cut as soon as funding permits.

Several weeks ago interim CEO, Jim Richardson, decreased the pay of all hospital workers by 5 percent.

Phillips said since the pay cut 17 registered nurses have left the hospital.

The hospital is also expected to continue to try to terminate their contract with their previous management company Quorum Health Resources.

Several weeks ago board members voted to terminate Quorum’s contract.

Even since Phillips, who works for Healthcare Management Partners, has come to run NRMC, Quorum has continued to have their CEO and CFO report to work each day.

Phillips said on Wednesday Quorum’s CEO and CFO were relocated from the hospital to a nearby office building.

While the future of NRMC is still not clear Brown said the changes on the horizon will not impact the quality of care provided by the hospital.