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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

GSDP hosts forum regarding hospital sale

Katie Poe | The Reflector

Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Orlanda Trainor and OCH CEO Richard Hilton lead the panel on Wednesday night.  


The Greensboro Center auditorium was full Wednesday night, for a forum concerning the sale of OCH Regional Medical Center.

The Greater Starkville Development Partnership hosted the event to educate and inform citizens on both sides of the issue. Questions were submitted by the public before the event and were answered by two panel speakers, Board of Supervisors President Orlando Trainer and OCH CEO Richard Hilton.

“The Board of Supervisors is extremely proud and thankful for OCH Medical Center,” Trainer said. “I hope that particular aspect is not misunderstood, but, at the same point, you recognize the challenges and opportunities that are out there in relation to OCH and also in relation with healthcare in general.”

Hilton said one advantage of keeping the hospital local is the economic impact on the community. He said a report from the Kaiser Foundation stated OCH has an annual economic impact of $127 million and spends $7 million each year on local goods and services.

“Over the past 10 years, OCH has had a progressive annual increase in its economic impact,” Hilton said.

On the other hand, Trainer said, based on a report by the board’s consultant firm Stroudwater and Associates, OCH has historically had a $4 million to $6 million shortfall per year.

He said maintaining local ownership only makes sense when the hospital has a steady record of financial performance providing revenue to cover costs without relying on the county’s finances and tax levies.

“OCH, I think, does a great job, but it’s obvious they need a partner,” Trainer said.

The Board of Supervisors received buying proposals from Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation and Tupelo-based North Mississippi Health Services. Hilton said the Board of Trustees and medical staff at OCH are opposed to selling the hospital.

One of the issues that arose when citizens discovered the proposals was the lack of information given by the board.

“They want you to vote to sell a hospital without knowing anything about it or any details,” said Dr. Steve Parvin, leader of the Friends of OCH. “At the end of the day, when this hospital is sold, it’s going to be between the supervisors, and the citizens of Starkville will have no input in it.”

Trainer said the Board of Supervisors has to look at contracts rather than proposals in order to have a more well-developed plan.

The respondents proposed a minimum capital investment of $20 million to $30 million. As of now, the Board has not released how the funds would be spent.

The citizens also wanted to know how they can be sure those proposing to buy the hospital are financially secure. Trainer said the many investments the organizations made in the past speak for themselves.

“These respondents have a proven track record of investments in the communities that each serves and without question have the resources that are not currently available to OCH,” Trainer said.

Hilton said if the hospital’s staff felt like it should be sold, then they would have recommended it.

“Selling should be done before an entity is in a bankrupt position,” Hilton said. “If the Board of Trustees, administration and medical staff felt that it was in the best interest of OCH to sell, then a joint recommendation would be forthcoming to the Board of Supervisors.”

However, Trainer said waiting until the hospital hits bankruptcy is a bad idea. He said the board is trying to be more proactive on the matter.

Although he is against the hospital sale, Hilton said an affiliation or partnership with a larger system could be a positive option.

“Affiliation can provide the benefits of sharing resources while avoiding the pitfalls of mergers,” Trainer said.

Hilton said mergers often result in loss of jobs, which is another issue the hospital employees want cleared up.

“OCH is Oktibbeha County’s second-largest employer,” Hilton said. “Keeping the hospital local will give employees comfort knowing that every effort will be made for keeping jobs.”

Trainer said both organizations’ proposals provided strategies to keep existing employees and cooperate with the medical staff.

“Employment of all OCH staff for at least one year after any sale will remain a key objective of the county as we progress in the RFP process,” Trainer said.

Another issue involved Stroudwater and Associates, the consultant firm hired by the board to conduct a review of OCH. If a sale is made, the company will receive a commission, which some citizens feel is a conflict of interest. Trainer said it is not.

“No, there is no conflict for the consultant to receive a commission if OCH is sold,” Trainer said. “The consultant was hired to advise the county in its consideration of the sale of OCH, the management of the RFP process and the transition of OCH operations to a purchaser if a sale occurs.”

Jill Lyle, a nurse practitioner at OCH, said she was satisfied overall with how the forum turned out.

“I was a little disappointed that they were scripted, but I thought they did a good job with the questions, and I feel like Mr. Hilton did a really good job,” Lyle said. “He was very concise, very detailed with his answers. He had a lot of facts and data to support his answers. I felt like the other side, Mr. Orlando Trainer’s side, was very vague and didn’t have a lot of detail.”

Parvin agreed and said many of the public’s questions were answered adequately.

“I think this was a very good forum,” Parvin said. “It was something we needed and I think a lot of the questions were answered to the people’s satisfaction. I think the forum accomplished a great deal.”

The Board of Supervisors hosts a referendum vote Nov. 7 to determine whether they will sell the hospital.

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GSDP hosts forum regarding hospital sale