Bankruptcy process moving forward

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 20, 2009

NATCHEZ — Although it’s difficult to measure, the sale of Natchez Regional Medical Center is progressing, CEO Scott Phillips said.

“The process is ongoing,” Phillips said. “They’re moving along.”

And earlier this week the hospital’s bankruptcy proceedings were getting into full swing.

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Phillips said a judge has been assigned to the case and has already started approving motions filed within the bankruptcy proceedings.

The most important motion approved so far addresses critical vendors, Phillips said.

Those vendors provide the hospital with staples like food, drugs and medical supplies.

“They will be paid in the normal course of payment,” he said.

Had the motion not been granted, the hospital could have been forced to receive all goods on a cash on delivery basis.

“That would have been a mess,” Phillips said.

Also granted was a motion that will allow the hospital to continue to pay on its $18 million bond.

Had that motion not been granted, the citizens of Adams County would have automatically had their taxes raised by 5 mills to cover the cost of the bond.

And Phillips said he’s still hopeful the hospital will be sold while it’s in bankruptcy.

But Phillips still isn’t saying who the buyer is.

Phillips said due to confidentiality contracts in place he’s not permitted to name the current bidder or the non-profit hospital system they’re planning to partner with.

Sources close to the hospital said Essent Healthcare of Nashville, Tenn., is considering buying the hospital and possibly contracting with Oschner Health System to manage the facility.

Phillips said the sale has now progressed to a level where NRMC has little involvement.

“Nothing with Natchez Regional is keeping this delayed,” he said.

One of the biggest issues slowing the sale is “external issues as they pertain to the consolidation of the local healthcare market,” Phillips said.

Phillips could not say how much longer he expected the sale to take.

President of the NRMC Board of Trustees Dan Bland said he’s concerned the national credit crunch will have a negative impact on the sale.

“I’m cautious about what’s going on (with credit markets),” he said.

However Bland said he was pleased to see the hospital’s bankruptcy filing progressing smoothly.