Voters choose to keep OCH locally owned

OCH Administrator Richard Hilton celebrates after hearing the final votes announced to keep OCH Regional Medical Center locally owned
Staff Writer

After the unofficial election results were announced, OCH Regional Medical Center will remain locally owned and not sold.

The vote against the sale of the hospital received 58.55 percent of the vote, while the vote for the sale sat at 41.45 percent.

OCH Administrator and CEO Richard Hilton said hearing the results was a relief after a long fought battle.

“That’s what we’ve been waiting for is for the will of the people to give the direction of what they would like to see and how this hospital moves forward going into the future,” Hilton said.

Hilton said the hospital’s board will meet today at noon to discuss the hospital’s first steps following the referendum vote. He said the meeting was scheduled regardless of the outcome of the election.

Through the discussion of selling the hospital, Hilton said there was never an opportunity to truly look at an affiliation process and present it in front of the board with the idea of the hospital selling looming.

Hilton said he wants to ask for the board of trustees’ direction if that’s what they would like for the administration to move forward on. If so, then Hilton will recontact the CEO’s who approached him.

“We will see where that takes us and to what aspects of how affiliation could work for OCH,” Hilton said. “Obviously, we would need to maybe consider some proposals and see what would be best for the community.”

Hilton said hopefully with the conversation finally over, administration can make the initial steps to better the hospital.

“Now, let’s move forward and make this hospital the best it can be,” Hilton said.

Frank Davis spearheaded the petition to get the referendum vote put on the special election ballot and said he was not surprised by the outcome. He said the results show the hard work and effort the men and women put into making the hospital what it is for this community.

“It feels wonderful that our hospital is going to be our hospital,” Davis said.

District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery, who has been in favor of keeping the hospital locally owned, said he is glad the vote is finally over because the issue has divided the community.

“The people have spoken to keep our hospital,” Montgomery said. “It’s going to be up to us, the trustees and the people of OCH to make it the best it can be for our community.”

Moving forward, Montgomery said he will more than likely make a motion to have a moratorium on the discussion of the sale of the hospital because it has been so jarring for the community.

“That way things can get normal again and the hospital can operate and be able to fully function without the worry of that coming back up,”Montgomery said.

President of the Oktibbeha Board of Supervisors Orlando Trainer said the results “is what it is” and now it is time for the board to re-evaluate its options for moving forward.

Trainer said the citizens have spoken, but nothing is eternal and nothing is permanent.

“Maybe if there is an opportunity out there for us to still do something unique and that the citizens will support than quite naturally I think that will be something we will strongly consider,” Trainer said.
“I think the good thing that came out of this is both sides know that there are going to have to be some changes, some significant adjustments.”

Through the process leading up to Tuesday’s vote, Trainer said there has been a disconnect between the board and the hospital’s administration. He said it went to an “us against them” mentality when he said it should be an “us working together” attitude.

Trainer said the citizens need to realize the decision to look at selling the hospital did not come to fruition over night. He said it took many failed attempts, until it found a way to get it to a vote.

“The best thing we can do from the supervisor’s standpoint is to consult with our legal team and see if there are any options out there,” Trainer said. “As it relates to what the supervisors can do that won’t have a direct impact from a negative perspective on health care in the county. I think we shouldn’t just walk away from that we ought to be able sit down and look at it and see if those things are really going benefit us.”

District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller - an outspoken supporter of selling the hospital - said she feels the entire process from start to finish has been beneficial for the community because it made people learn about health care, taxes and where the county wants to be.

“I think this has been a very educational experience for the entire community, I think that we are a better community because we have gone through this process,” Miller said. “It’s been eye opening, I don’t see it as a negative.”

Miller said her main concern is to continue having transparency with the board of trustees to provide updates on the hospital. She said as supervisors, it is their responsibly to look at the bond debt and what the plan of action should be.

Miller said she looks forward to Hilton and his team explaining to the board how they plan on addressing these shortcomings.

Even though the vote did not go in her favor, Miller said the outcome of the vote will allow both sides to digest what the people want from their hospital.

“It’s just something that hospital administration and the board of supervisors will be able to look at and digest and see how in the future this is going to beneficial for us and how we are going to take this and actually grow from this,” Miller said.