Bankruptcy again for Natchez Regional?

Published 12:01 am Monday, February 10, 2014

If you are like me, the headline in the Wednesday’s edition of the The Natchez Democrat, “Hospital plans to file for bankruptcy,” hit you like a ton of bricks. If you saw that one coming, you were far ahead of me in figuring out the puzzle that has become NRMC.

I guess that it does help to explain the apparent rush by the Board of Trustees to sell NRMC as quickly as possible. But if NRMC was hemorrhaging cash at a rate sufficient to require protection from its creditors to keep operating at this point, it was probably too late by the time the sales process began anyway.

I was certainly glad to see Thursday’s headline that “Board (meaning Supervisors) ‘upset’ with bankruptcy.” I thought the term “upset” was a little lax on their part, given the gravity of the situation. But when I read the article and it said they were all “terribly upset,” I was quite relieved by that more heightened sense of aggravation on their part. I thought “mad as hell” might have been more appropriate.

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Whether intended or not, I suppose the NRMC Board of Trustees has afforded the members of the Board of Supervisors a certain degree of cover from the fallout that will come from the bankruptcy announcement. So the Supervisors are fortunate they were kept in the dark about NRMC’s true financial situation. What a stroke of luck for them.

Board of Trustees attorney Walter Brown thinks the bankruptcy will help to clean things up for a potential buyer of the hospital out of bankruptcy. His concern should be more for his client now, than a potential purchaser. But I predict there will be a clamor for his ouster as board attorney soon, so I will not waste my space here on that.

I have had quite a number of people approach me and congratulate me for being so suspicious of what has been going on with NRMC. I guess because I have questioned the “sales process” from the beginning, people think I was pulling for NRMC to fall victim to disaster. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. I am genuinely saddened by this turn of events.

I can actually empathize with the Board of Trustees for what they have no doubt been through, to come to this decision. I know they are all well-meaning people who have wrestled with a difficult situation. However, all the more reason to have come out from behind the closed doors sooner. With the way that things have been conducted in secret, they are the only ones who were in the know, and it has now blown up in their collective faces. I predict there will also be a clamor for resignations there, or perhaps a complete dissolution of that board. That would probably be a relief for many of them at this point.

Some people wonder whether NRMC will be allowed to file bankruptcy again, so soon after emerging from the last bankruptcy. I guess that remains to be seen, as we are told the governor and legislature must approve the filing. That begs this question, if NRMC is allowed to file for bankruptcy, is a sale out of bankruptcy, obviously for peanuts, the best course of action? Could bankruptcy be used to buy some time to re-organize NRMC? But I guess that would require some real effort on the part of some people who seem content to simply say it is time for Adams County to get out of the hospital business.

Finally, for now, I suppose there is the question of the purported settlement proceeds from the Quorum lawsuit. Might it be possible now for the judge in that matter to lift, or rescind the confidentiality of that information, as there needs to be a full investigation of exactly where that money went? I wonder if something like that falls under a Freedom of Information Act request?

As usual with NRMC, all we have at this point are more questions. I wonder how long we will have to wait to get some real answers?

Chuck Fields is an Adams County resident.