|Online Edition Natchez, Mississippi|
The Rinaldi Report
by Peter Rinaldi
What supervisors face is that Regional may not get a buyer, since the amount owed by the hospital, $25 million in long term debt and short term liabilities and payables, is greater than the value of the hospital itself.
Since Regional is a bigger financial entity than county
government itself, supervisors do not have the tax base or
wherewithal to keep the hospital afloat. At last look, it appeared
Regional was heading toward a $3 million annual loss, far more than
the county could borrow on an annual basis and pay back without a
massive property tax increase.
Community Health Systems (owners of
You should wonder why trustees and supervisors are prolonging the agony, going into reorganization instead of liquidation. Of course, during reorganization you can discharge much of your unsecured liabilities. There’s that living-in-vain-hope mentality that’s always been part of the Regional Board of Trustees. “Things will turn around, if only, if only.” That’s not going to happen.
This column has noted a series of calculated missteps over the years on the part of hospital trustees and supervisors. If you want to know why things have spiraled out of control so much, just look at the trustee appointment process. Many times, potential trustees were redlined, rejected for appointment, because of their competence or unwillingness to accept the status quo. Any change in course was fought by the hospital board attorney and his administrators, a threat to their personal income streams. Appointing competent trustees could end the “fleecing of the sheep.”
I remember specifically one chairman of the board of trustees who was such a lapdog to Messrs. Brown and Houghton that anything they wanted would be approved, rubber stamped, as it will. That chairman, so incompetent, eventually was indicted by his employer for embezzlement and later convicted. So he departed, but not before many bad deeds were done. During this time, the chairman, whose errant ways had already been surmised by insiders, had the full support of the board of supervisors. He might be a crook and incompetent, but he’s our crook and our incompetent. Supervisor Darryl Grennell deserves the blame here, as he stood by trustee chairman James Coleman despite mounting evidence that Coleman was over his head and in deepest trouble.
The reality is that Regional’s position could still be considered of value, even today, as it controls maybe 25-30% market share. As such, its business, $45 million net a year, is definitely worth having. But the county’s position will never be safeguarded as long as the Brown-Phillips team continues to scamper around the truth and mislead.
Did you notice that Adams County Supervisors just asked Regional Board of Trustees for another full and complete accounting of finances? They have yet to receive it, in part because Brown-Phillips know the request is more political and half-hearted. The pair and their cohorts don’t want the dirty and awful truth to come out. There’s nothing supervisors can really do to change the course events now, unless they insisted on the removal of Brown-Phillips and brought in a truth-telling management team. Maybe it’s too late for even that.
Worse than the lying, the bosses are also clearly not expert enough to handle Regional’s affairs. They’ve figured out how to fleece the sheep, but that’s about it. They never really had a viable plan for a turn-around, other than to take as much money as possible for themselves. The rest, all the chatter, was window-dressing for dummies, the public, the media.
In the end, Regional’s hospital facility is not really needed, though its jobs and services are vital to the community. If Community Health Systems or some other entity is successful in capturing the assets at fire sale prices, it won’t really need the big building and 350 employees. Or if a Jackson-based non-profit took over the symbolic management of Regional, it would transfer as many patients as possible to the big city. The money is in the surgery, baby. That surgery doesn’t have to be local.
That’s why all the machinations about recruiting physicians and building revenues were so laughable. Why would anyone expect a heart doc to be successful here without a cardiac surgery team and dedicated cardiac surgery facility? It’s idiotic and so typical.
A few years ago, Adams County Supervisors debated who to appoint to the Regional Board of Trustees. A list of candidates was prepared and one candidate was especially promising – thoughtful, intellectual, knowledgeable. But the candidate was never interviewed for the post, as the comment circulated, “He might cause trouble.” Trouble would be a change of course, insistence on good management and good policy. Supervisors did the right thing politically, and voted to appoint a near-slug in place of the competent person, because Messrs. Brown and Phillips would approve of the slug. No change of course.
By the way, supervisors have considered a number of appointments to hospital trustees over the years, doctors admitted to practice at Regional. These doctors have a vested and personal interest in the outcome of policy and as such, it is a conflict of interest for these docs to serve on the board. They can also be hammered into silence so easily if they raise a peep in protest to current and errant policy.
My hope is not so much that Regional can be saved, because
that doesn’t look that likely. What should be our hope is that as
many jobs can be saved as possible over the long term. Consolidation
of services will mean better healthcare, as more of the revenue can
be harnessed by just one hospital entity in
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