Hospital to look for buyer with ‘stalking horse’ bid

NATCHEZ — Natchez Regional Medical Center will seek a “stalking horse” bid in which a potential buyer makes an initial offer to set the floor for an auction.

Hospital officials tell The Natchez Democrat that three health care providers have agreed to participate.

“We are hopeful that within a matter of weeks we will have identified a stalking horse,” said Healthcare Management Partners director Clare Moylan.

Healthcare Management Partners was hired by Adams County in July to help negotiate the sale of the county-owned NRMC.

The three potential bidders have been given access to proprietary information about the hospital’s finances, employees and outlook for coming years.

In the stalking horse process, HMP will negotiate a selling price with one of the interested parties. Once that price and any stipulations are decided, the agreement with the stalking horse becomes the base bid for the hospital’s sale.

If no one outbids the stalking horse, the hospital is automatically sold to the stalking horse, which would have provided the county with a security to ensure the sale.

Once the stalking horse candidate is identified, the agreement has to be ratified by the board of supervisors. The county has to advertise the sale for 30 days.

An election on the sale could be necessary if 1,500 residents sign a petition objecting to the sale. If no petition is filed, the sale can proceed.

Hospital administrators have said that the sale is necessary because changes in health care law will make maintaining an independent, rural hospital logistically and financially difficult.

Officials have said making the hospital part of a larger system is the only way to attract physicians and a larger health care system can afford to replace the hospital’s aging physical plant.

HMP marketed the hospital for sale following its 2008 bankruptcy, and had permission to use a stalking horse process, but at that time no buyer came forward.

NRMC opened in 1960 as Jefferson Davis Memorial Hospital.

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