District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said there is a strong possibility the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors could commission outside analysis of OCH Regional Medical Center during its 5:30 p.m. meeting today at the county courthouse.
Mississippi law states the county must contract with a certified public accounting firm, law firm or competent professional health care or management consultant to review hospital operating conditions before any potential transaction. Analysis must review the hospital’s inpatient needs based on current workload, historical trends and future projections; the competitive market for services, services provided and market perception; strengths relative to competition and its capacity for future competition; and hospital options, including service mix and pricing strategies. If a transaction is deemed appropriate by the study, it would then present which option — sale or lease — would be best for the community and how much revenue should be obtained.
Earlier this month, Trainer estimated outside analysis would cost the county approximately $30,000.
In previous meetings, supervisors said public discussions were needed on the future of county health care, and Trainer said a public educational session would be scheduled. He is expected to announce the meeting will be held 5:30 p.m. July 9 at the county courthouse and will feature Richard Cowart of Nashville’s Baker Donelson firm.
“There are both sides saying this and that right now, and I think it would be good to go ahead and get the facts from an outside source,” Trainer said Sunday.
According to its website, Baker Donelson’s health care division has represented hospitals and health systems in almost 100 transactions in 15 states. Cowart, a native Mississippian, said he will share experiences from other in-state transactions, including deals in Lowndes and Lafayette counties.
“Health care is so capital-intensive it can quickly outstrip local government’s resources,” Cowart said Friday. “I’m just trying to tell the real stories and the real factors. Different communities make different decisions.”
Even though the board has yet to take an official step toward selling or leasing OCH Regional Hospital, one man’s grassroots effort against a possible transaction began this weekend.
Starkville resident Frank Davis collected over 200 signatures this weekend from residents who are opposed to any possible hospital transaction. Davis, a professor emeritus with Mississippi State University and former Starkville alderman, went door-to-door seeking signatures in Maben, Sturgis and the county seat and discussing his self-described “pro-our hospital” stance with county residents.
The petition reads: “We, the undersigned residents and registered voters of Oktibbeha County, understand and appreciate the value of OCH Regional Medical Center and believe it should remain locally owned and operated. We are opposed to our hospital being leased or sold to any private entity.”
The petition’s language, Davis said, possibly sets up a move to force any potential transaction to the electorate, but county officials were unavailable Sunday to provide clarity.
Mississippi law states exactly 1,500 qualified-voters’ signatures or signatures from 20 percent of the county’s same population segment — whichever is less — are needed to force a vote if the board agrees to a transaction.
“We want 1,500 signatures, but we’re hoping to get 2,000. That’ll really make it stand out then,” Davis said. “It’s a personal experience. (Saturday), I had two conversations with gentlemen in their kitchens. They told me they were going to sign the petition anyway, but they wanted to know more about the situation. It’s been a wonderful experience, and I haven’t had anyone turn me down yet.”
The grassroots campaigner is scheduled to address supervisors at 6:20 p.m. today. Davis’ presentation could be moved up or delayed depending on how quickly the board moves through the meeting’s agenda.
“I want to paint a picture … to show (the board) all of the things (OCH Regional Hospital) has done and is doing (to better community health care). We know this: OCH is alive and well. It’s doing everything it can to improve the health care and services we have here in Oktibbeha County. I’m not a person who gets in an argument; my deal is simply to tell (supervisors) what our stance is and to defend OCH. I want them to know Frank is doing his homework.
“So many people just say ‘Sell it’ or ‘Don’t sell it,’ but they haven’t really looked at both sides, dug in the deal or gone to the hospital and gotten the real facts. My deal is we cannot afford to make a decision as big as this one with no real information or data. We have to look at the pros and cons very carefully,” he added. “If Humpty Dumpty falls and breaks to pieces, five years down the road we will not recover and get back to where we were.”