NRMC board: Don’t sell hospital

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 6, 2010

NATCHEZ — In a hastily called midday meeting, Natchez Regional Medical Center’s board of trustees sent a clear message Friday to Adams County Supervisors: Don’t sell our hospital.

After reports surfaced Friday morning that supervisors are considering their options for selling the county-owned facility, interim hospital CEO Lana Morgan called the meeting.

Phone calls to Morgan were not returned Friday.

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Hospital attorney Walter Brown said the board asked him to speak on its behalf.

“A vote was taken to advise the board of supervisors and the general public and particularly the employees that it is not on the board of trustees’ agenda to sell the hospital,” Brown said, adding that all four members present voted unanimously to communicate those concerns to the supervisors. “They wanted to reassure the public and the employees that the hospital is doing well and is working.”

Brown said the board of trustees pointed to several initiatives under way since the hospital emerged from bankruptcy in December 2009, each of which could significantly affect the hospital’s long-term financial situation, which Brown referred to as solid.

Those projects or plans include:

4 Work to reopen its defunct heart catheterization lab and, under a contract being worked with the Jackson Heart Clinic in Jackson, bring another cardiologist to the area.

4 Plans to create a research project that would allow an operating partnership between NRMC, Medicaid and Oschner Hospital in New Orleans. The proposal requires state approval and funding, neither of which has been provided yet.

4 The pending lawsuit with Quorum Health Resources. Sale of the hospital, Brown said, would weaken NRMC’s position in its lawsuit claiming QHR mismanaged the hospital and ultimately contributed to its financial woes.

4 Recently improving surgery volumes with the addition of a new physician.

“We’ve got another world-class surgeon here now,” Brown said, referring to both Dr. Hendrik Kuiper who recently came to Natchez and well-known local surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Flattman who has worked here for several years.

Brown said to sell the hospital only two months after coming out of bankruptcy would short-change all of the programs in the works.

“The board (of trustees) needs a chance to take on these new initiatives and have the support of the board of supervisors and the general public, in doing so,” Brown said. “(Talk of a possible sale is) a distraction out there that takes away from the work that they’re doing.”

Four of the seven board members were in attendance at Friday’s board of trustees meeting, Brown said.

Board members Gwen Ball, Bill Ernst, Renza Grennell and Dr. Jennifer Russ attended Friday’s meeting.

Board members Dan Bland and Bernie Pyron were out of town and the Rev. LeRoy White could not be contacted prior to the meeting, Brown said.