Judge declines ombudsman position for NRMC

Published 12:12 am Friday, April 25, 2014

Before the close of the hearing, Olack allowed Adams County resident Chuck Fields to take the stand and express his concerns about the hospital’s operations.

Fields said he believed an ombudsman was necessary because HMP was previously involved in the hospital’s sale process, but he felt the public was misled about the unsuccessful 2008 effort.

He likewise cited statements members of the board of supervisors have made in recent months about their inability to get information from the hospital.

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“I think the entire community feels like we were misled through the entire process,” he said.

Fields also said the recently released audit of the hospital’s 2013 finances caused him great concern, especially the fact that a $9 million lawsuit settlement was received and the hospital was still facing bankruptcy.

“If $9 million comes into the hospital unexpectedly and months later we are filing bankruptcy, the citizens of the county are at our wits end,” he said.

“It appears they are in over their heads here, and the only way to get to the bottom of this is to let someone from the outside look at it.

“I am sure the supervisors and the board of trustees would like to sell this and sweep it all under the rug.”

Fields left the courtroom after speaking, but Olack said he appreciated that someone from the community came to share their feelings.

However, he said he felt Fields’ comments weren’t relevant to the discussion of the ombudsman.

“If there is need for an investigation, that does not fall under the purview of the patient care ombudsman,” he said.

The judge said the court will hold future sessions in Natchez — many motions related to the case are heard in Jackson — if the matter at hand is of community importance.

Others who testified at Thursday’s hearing included Supervisors’ President Darryl Grennell, Board of Trustees Chair the Rev. Leroy White and Horne Group accountant Clint King.

NRMC opened in 1960 as Jefferson Davis Memorial Hospital. Its $2.4 million construction was underwritten by an $800,000 local contribution and state and federal funds.

It has been financially independent since 1974 and does not receive tax support, but is backed by a 5-mill standby tax that the Mississippi Development Bank required the hospital to get in 2006 when it asked for the MDB to reissue its revenue bond.

The hospital board of trustees announced in February its intention to declare bankruptcy, citing at the time a $3 million deficit between financial assets and liabilities.

At Thursday’s hearing, King testified the hospital is current with all post-bankruptcy petition filing debts.

The county supervisors, who have to approve any action to sell the facility, appoint the hospital’s volunteer trustees. The board of trustees includes White, John Serafin, Dr. Linda Godley, Bill Ernst, Lionel Stepter, Lee Martin and Dr. Jennifer Russ.