Outside oversight needed at hospital

Published 12:13 am Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Despite a nearly $10 million jackpot from a court settlement, the cash incinerator at Natchez Regional Medical Center apparently operated with reckless abandon last year.

The county-owned hospital released its 2013 audit Monday providing the public the first insight into just how atrocious the operation’s financial leadership had become.

To no one’s surprise the hospital reported a $7.6 million loss, which is almost unfathomable for most people to consider.

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How on earth did such huge losses continue to mount without hospital board of trustee members being up in arms and seeking answers?

The hospital’s CFO seemingly threw the former CEO under the proverbial bus at Monday’s meeting, but shouldn’t they both share a significant part of the blame? Both signed on and accepted fiduciary responsibility for the county’s largest asset.

Nearly every single group that deals with funds — private or non-private — includes a financial overview as part of routine meetings, from the chamber of commerce to church committees.

Did Natchez Regional’s Board of Trustees operate differently or did they simply sit back and watch the negative numbers pile up month after month hoping for a miraculous turn around due to some divine force?

It’s enough to make most hard-working county residents who technically own the hospital furious over the gross mismanagement.

Thursday, a federal bankruptcy court will consider whether or not to appoint an outside ombudsman to oversee the hospital’s bankruptcy proceedings in order to protect patients.

We urge the court to appoint such an ombudsman. Earlier this year, the financial responsibility at the hospital had become so lax that the electrical power company was pressing the hospital to pay up or face having the service terminated.

That’s no way to run a hospital in which patient lives are in the balance. Outside oversight would not only be welcome, it’s critically needed.