|Online Edition Natchez, Mississippi|
The Rinaldi Report
by Peter Rinaldi
Natchez Regional's foolish politics never seem to get better. Two weeks ago, creditors objected to the hospital's bankruptcy filings, saying that Regional's own figures for revenues, expenses and cash flow could not be trusted, as the hospital's management had misstated the numbers on numerous occasions.
While the bankruptcy judge may acknowledge the creditors'
objections, in the end, the hospital's plan will be accepted in one
modified form or another because there is no other realistic choice.
Unsecured creditors should be a bit worried, as the hospital has
revealed it continues to hemorrhage money. The only way all the
secured and unsecured loans and invoices will be paid is if
supervisors tag taxpayers with a big bill. While initially that
looked like $2 million, the timeline for a sale continues to stretch
out and the hospital continued to lose money. It could cost
taxpayers $3.5-$5 million or more to dig the hospital trustees and
the supervisors out of the hole they dug themselves. That's at least
five mills. Community Health Systems still plans to go ahead and
purchase the Regional as early as the end of September.
The affair is not without touches of comedy. It was revealed that
just before the bankruptcy filing, hospital attorney Walter Brown
submitted invoices and was paid $123,000 for services rendered.
Brown had to hustle quickly to get paid, otherwise he could be
listed as an unsecured creditor. It's always best to be first in the
The same pass may not be given to Dist. 1's Mike Lazarus. Lazarus has been on the board three terms now and has personally given out misinformation about the hospital and the financial rebuild that never happened. He has been a close political ally of attorney Brown, admittedly more out of fear of retribution than love of policy. Lazarus got elected on conservative credentials, promising to be a taxpayers' advocate. Those promises haven't been kept.
Lazarus may be the only supervisor to garner direct voter blame for the loss of Regional, the coming bailout and the loss of 200+ hospital jobs during his tenure. His "mouth of the South," personality can both help and hurt him in a re-election battle.
Dist. 1 can also be contentious. Voters are always talking about who should run against Mike. But Lazarus has become a good politician in his three terms and has made friends with many people who initially did not support him. Somberly, Lazarus admitted that the Regional fiasco and staking an additional five mills to guarantee hospital debt was 'a bitter pill to swallow.'
The promises by supervisors, Regional trustees and hospital
management were truly hollow, lies and baloney, shoveled like stinky
manure to the public for years in an attempt to mislead purposely
and avoid either collective or individual responsibility.
The voters may accept the incumbents' mantra that they're good people doing a good job and bad things happened because of circumstances out of their control.
In reality, the performance of the Adams County Board of Supervisors has been woeful with major mistakes in judgment. But there is simply little political price to pay for incompetence in handling the Regional and IP-Rentech deals. Voters accept their leaders' failures as just plain normal. Supervisors are supposed to make big mistakes.
Borrowing from the W.C. Fields quip, supervisors could joke, "We spent half our money on loans for Natchez Regional and buying the vacant IP plant. The other half we wasted."
Voters get what they vote for. That's the way it goes.
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