Officials expect recommendation to sell hospital

Published 12:12 am Saturday, July 20, 2013

NATCHEZ The Natchez Regional Medical Center’s board of trustees does not yet know what the feasibility study for the potential sale or lease of the county-owned hospital will say.

But representatives of both boards say they suspect the feasibility study will recommend a sale.

The trustees are scheduled to meet Monday with the Adams County Board of Supervisors to discuss the feasibility study conducted by the accounting firm the Horne Group to determine if the sale of the hospital is in the best interest of the community. The feasibility study is a legally required first step in the sale process.

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But the Rev. Leroy White, president of the hospital board, said he couldn’t say what the trustees recommendation will be to the supervisors because he and the other trustees won’t know what the study says until Monday morning, either.

“We are going to try to go early and see what it says, what does it recommend so that we can in turn have a recommendation to the board of supervisors what to do with (the study),” White said.

Though the supervisors appoint the hospital trustees, the hospital operates independently of the county of the county government, including financially. However, the trustees cannot sell or lease the facility without the consent of the county governing board.

The supervisors agreed Thursday to enter into a contract with Healthcare Management Partners to solicit and analyze proposals for the sale of the hospital. The contract, which has a minimum payment of $300,000 and a cap of $500,000, is based on hourly fees.

The county previously hired HMP to sell the hospital in 2008, and while officials said buyers were lined up — though they were never named — no sale went through.

Both the county and hospital boards have previously said the arrangement with HMP was being put in place ahead of time so the process can start moving as soon as the trustees make an official recommendation to the supervisors based on the feasibility study.

Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said Friday he was unsure of what HMP might do for the county if the feasibility does not recommend selling the hospital.

“Realistically, my gut says it is going to say more than likely that they have a recommendation to sell,” he said.

White said based on economic conditions and changing realities within the health care industry, he also expects a sale recommendation.

“The market is wide open right now,” he said.

White said the need to upgrade facilities and meet the demands of the Affordable Care Act are the main reasons the trustees are looking at the sale option.

“We are not going to be able to stand alone financially — we need a partner,” he said. “We are also going to need a whole lot of doctors, and the only way we are gong to be able to do that is if we come into partnership with somebody who can provide those doctors and the financial backing to keep them.”

If the supervisors accept the Horne Group’s findings and the trustee’s recommendation, the next step in the process will be to schedule a public hearing. Grennell said the time and date of such a hearing would be determined after the report was given to the supervisors.