Hospital sale tops stories of 2014

Published 12:45 am Sunday, December 28, 2014

As the year 2014 comes to a close, perhaps one of the biggest news events of the year is best described by the lyrics of a popular Grateful Dead song — What a long, strange trip it’s been.

The year for county-owned Natchez Regional Medical Center started with some great news — a would-be buyer had made an offer. The announced offer came after months and months of having the hospital up for sale with very little interest.

The sweet news quickly soured as the hospital filed bankruptcy soon after and the public learned the initial offer wouldn’t cover all the hospital’s mounting debt.

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Eventually through some creative financing options, the hospital was sold. The sale included allowing the buyer to prepay property taxes so the county could apply that to the debt; in addition the county took out a loan to help cover the closing costs of the sale.

The bankruptcy filing was a tiny bit of a godsend for taxpayers who had been kept in the dark about the hospital’s finances for years and years. Bankruptcy code required disclosure of some limited financial information that allowed the public to learn just how horribly the hospital had been managed.

Through the bankruptcy filings taxpayers learned the hospital debacle was of epic proportions. The good news is it’s over, and the new owners can focus on improving health care for the community. The bad news is a number of employees and non-secured creditors may wind up losing money in the process, all while a chosen handful made big profits as “professionals” working on behalf of the hospital. We hope the hospital’s new owners have smooth sailing ahead as they seek to renovate the NRMC building and physically merge the two Natchez hospitals into a single facility.

As the Grateful Dead sang, health care in the Natchez area needs to, “Just keep truckin‘ on.”