Supervisors to talk with trustees about selling hospital

NATCHEZ — Natchez Regional Medical Center could soon go on the market, with the Adams County Board of Supervisors saying they want to meet with NRMC’s board of trustees to discuss selling the hospital.

At least three parties have expressed interest in the county-owned property.

Supervisor Mike Lazarus made the suggestion at the supervisors’ meeting, and the other board members agreed to have board attorney Scott Slover arrange the meeting with the hospital board.

After the meeting, Lazarus said he thought the time was right to sell the hospital in part because he’s heard of potential buyers expressing interest.

“Obviously, people are wanting to buy the hospital right now, and when we put it up for sale before we didn’t get anybody to put in an offer,” he said. “I represent the people of Adams County, and I feel right now the majority of them would just as soon have us get out of the hospital business.”

The Rev. Leroy White, president of NRMC’s board of trustees, said the hospital has communication from three groups interested in the hospital. The supervisors have previously said a potential buyer has approached them as well.

“We would like to meet with (the supervisors) as soon as we finish getting all the recommendations together,” White said.

Slover said before any sale could be completed, by law a feasibility study would have to be completed and the supervisors would have to have public hearings about the sale.

The actual sale process would be initiated through a request for proposals from potential buyers, he said.

“It could be a long, methodical process, and there will be public hearings and findings that the board makes that the sale is still in the best interest of health care in the community. Community health is still the primary concern by law,” Slover said,

Supervisor Calvin Butler said he believes the time is right to sell because the hospital is in a good place financially and because the board doesn’t know how coming changes in health care law might affect the county.

“I would like to see whoever bought it to keep our community involved in the operations, maybe putting local people on the board of directors,” Butler said. “We need to have somebody who would be able to say, ‘We need to keep this program because we have elderly people in our area, or because we have this or that (constituency).’”

Butler said his decision would ultimately be based on the recommendation of the hospital trustees.

Supervisor Angela Hutchins said she didn’t mind sitting down with the trustees and hearing what they have to say, and Supervisor David Carter said he had no opinion on the sale of the hospital yet.

“I am fine with meeting with them because we should meet with them from time to time anyway,” he said.

Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said he is receptive to the idea of a sale, but that the board needs to remain aware of the needs of county residents.

“I have been (on the board of supervisors) for 17 years, and history has a tendency to want to repeat itself — I know we have dealt with this subject numerous times.

“I have always been a strong proponent of a county hospital. I have always been concerned about the health and welfare of county citizens. I am also a realist, and I am aware of the changing landscape of health care. I just don’t want to see anyone in need turned away from health care,” Grennell said.

NRMC opened in 1960 as Jefferson Davis Memorial Hospital. The then-$2.4 million construction was funded by state and federal dollars and $800,000 in county funds.

Though it is county-owned, the hospital has been financially independent since 1974. It receives no tax support, but is backed by a 5-mill standby tax the Mississippi Development Bank required the hospital to get in 2006 when it asked for the MDB to reissue its revenue bond.

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