Here we go again with hospital

Published 12:01 am Friday, July 12, 2013

Although I was the most vocal person in the county several years ago when the idea of selling NRMC came up, I have been content to sit by quietly and read about the process now ongoing in The Natchez Democrat. Surely, the lessons from the past had been learned. The Horn Group had been hired to consult.

Then, when I read the July 2, 2013 article with the headline NRMC trustees discuss sale, lease, with the sub-heading “Consultant hired to speed up hospital sale,” I was confused at first, and then downright angry. My confusion stemmed from the sub-heading, which seemed old news, since it had already been announced that the Horn Group had been hired to conduct a feasibility study.

After a listing of the trustees and hospital administrators present at the meeting where the sale, lease was discussed, came the part which caused my anger. The following paragraph read “Scott Phillips with Healthcare Management Partners – a consulting firm brought in for the potential sale – addressed the board during the meeting.” In the words of Yogi Berra, it seemed like Déjà vu all over again!

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The next paragraph read “The consultants (with HMP) are helping with the feasibility study, and they are setting up the ground work that the hospital will need to do to sell quickly,” county board attorney Scott Slover said.

Rev. Leroy White said they were brought in because of the time factor. “They already knew what the situation was from 2008. This is economical having them who already knew the hospital.” Here is the scariest part of all, “White said contracts have not been finalized for the consulting work and the costs have not yet been determined.”

The article also stated that HMP attempted to sell the hospital in 2008 and even had buyers lined up, but the sale never went through. White cited the economy went into recession, and the potential buyers felt it was too risky at the time. Perhaps they thought they could just say that, and no one would remember.

Well, I remember, and I will quote a headline from The Natchez Democrat’s March 14, 2009 issue after the proposed sale had fallen through “Deal wasn’t solid,” with the sub-heading “Plans to buy hospital not as far along as some believed.” The CEO of the potential buyer was quoted in the article as saying “No deal was imminent,” talks had not proceeded to include an actual sales price, and that neither he, nor any member of his team, had been to Natchez regarding the potential purchase.

All of this, after Mr. Phillips had stated previously that a deal was imminent, and Supervisors mentioned how great the deal would be for the County. A quote from Phillips, in a January 6, 2009 article in The Natchez Democrat, concerning assembling the Board of Supervisors for a quick vote, once the contract was finalized stated “They’re on standby.” Later, in the previously referenced March 14, 2009 “Deal wasn’t solid” article, Mr. Phillips stated that “it is possible that he also thought the sale process had progressed further than it had.” Do ya think?

And in case everyone else involved has forgotten, I clearly recall that Mr. Phillips’ company was being paid $100,000 per month for their services. Those services ended up with everyone involved with both boards looking somewhat foolish in my humble opinion.

So you hired a guy once, paid him $100,000 per month, and ended up looking foolish. A few years later you hire him again, to speed up the process that involves probably the largest transaction in the history of the County. And, you haven’t finalized the details of his contract, so costs have not been determined. So much for learning the lessons from the past I guess!

Chuck Fields is an Adams County resident.