Transparency still vital in NRMC deal

Published 12:10 am Sunday, October 26, 2014

While the battle of Natchez’s formerly rival hospitals is over, the unusual detritus left in its wake remains.

Most of us know about Natchez Regional Medical Center’s long, grinding demise. We know how the hospital’s seemingly inept management pointed the nose of the facility to the ground and pushed down the throttles.

The resulting bankruptcy finally allowed the public to get at least a glimpse into the long-secretive hospital. What the public saw wasn’t pretty either.

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Before it gasped its last breath, just before selling to Community Health Systems, the hospital burned through millions and millions of dollars, the cash burn a result of a fatal mix of ineptness and pride.

The bankruptcy further showed many just how low some of the attorneys and consultants involved in the hospital’s final days would stoop for the sake of a buck. Several were discovered to have paid themselves just a day or two prior to the bankruptcy filing — which only they were privy to knowing.

This week, the public has learned even more troubling news.

First, two more board members of the hospital’s board of trustees resigned. On the surface, the departure may not be surprising. For all practical purposes, the board has no function other than to purportedly represent the hospital trust’s interests as the hospital’s bankruptcy plan is played out over the next two years.

The two departing board members declined to comment, presumably because they fear their role in the hospital’s bankruptcy may not fully be over yet.

It’s likely they fear — and with good cause — the committee of the hospital’s unsecured creditors will sue the hospital board members and their bonding agents.

The unsecured creditors have every right to use all means possible to seek full payment on what the hospital owed them.

If suing the board — or the insurance company that provided the board members their bonds — is a possibility, they should do so.

Such a lawsuit, if successful, would simply further cause the pain of Natchez Regional’s financial fiasco to be spread out among more people who didn’t really have a dang thing to do with the problems, nor how to fix them.

The blame for what occurred at Natchez Regional shouldn’t be left to just float off into oblivion. The county should aggressively investigate so taxpayers can know with certainty whether or not any illegal actions were behind the hospital’s demise.

While nothing can be done to bring the hospital back, taxpayers should not rest until they know exactly how millions and millions of dollars were simply incinerated at the hands of hospital leaders who were entrusted to keep careful watch.

Unfortunately, last week it became clear that little serious work has been done in that regard.

A case in point, when asked who owns the former Natchez Regional financial records, board minutes, etc., the hospital board chairman said the new owners did. The county attorney said the county owned them.

The county should quickly obtain a copy of all the financial and board records, and make them available for public review.

At this point, the records should contain no confidential, privileged business information that could harm the hospital’s ability to be competitive.

The records may contain nothing useful anymore, if they ever did, but having access to them would provide a bit of closure to at least a few citizens who care about what’s right and what’s wrong — including yours truly.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or