Adams County hopes for update on hospital sale

Published 12:11 am Sunday, October 20, 2013

NATCHEZ — The Adams County Board of Supervisors will meet this week with the chief executive officer of the company hired to sell Natchez Regional Medical Center.

The board has scheduled on the agenda for its Monday meeting an appearance by Scott Phillips of Healthcare Management Partners. HMP was hired in June to market NRMC after the supervisors decided on the advice of the hospital’s trustees to try to sell the county-owned hospital.

Supervisors’ President Darryl Grennell said he did not know what Phillips might bring to the table Monday, but is hoping for an update on the sale process.

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The hospital trustees’ attorney, Walter Brown, scheduled Phillips’ meeting with the supervisors.

HMP previously tried on behalf of the county to sell the hospital out of bankruptcy in 2008. Though that effort was ultimately unsuccessful, the hospital exited bankruptcy and has continued operations since then.

After seeking an opinion from the state attorney general’s office earlier this year, the county approved using the same method utilized for the unsuccessful sale in 2008, seeking a stalking horse bidder.

Under the stalking horse model, a bidder negotiates a buying price for the facility, signs a contract with the county and puts down a security. When the hospital is officially placed up for auction, the stalking horse’s price is considered to be the base bid.

If no one outbids the stalking horse, the hospital will automatically be sold to the stalking horse.

The supervisors voted to limit stalking horse negotiations to non-profit health care systems within a 150-mile radius that regularly treat patients from the Miss-Lou. The parent company of Natchez Community Hospital — Heath Management Associates — was excluded from the stalking horse process because it is a for-profit system.

HMA will still be able to bid on NRMC when the hospital goes to open auction, which will be open to both non-profit and for-profit systems.

Once a stalking horse bidder is negotiated, the supervisors have to approve the agreement. When the agreement is approved, the board will pass a sale resolution, which will be advertised for a month before the auction can take place.

During that advertisement period, residents have the ability to file a petition asking for the matter to be taken to a referendum. The petition would require 1,500 signatures.

HMP Director Clare Moylan said in late September the company has sent out letters to 90 health care systems seeking expressions of interest in the auction while waiting for a stalking horse bidder to come forward.

The effort to sell the hospital began earlier this year after the hospital’s trustees told the supervisors the costs and logistics of implementing the Affordable Care Act, as well as the need to replace the hospital’s aging physical plant, would make continuing the operation of a rural, independent hospital difficult.