April 14, 2014 10:03:49 AM
Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Orlando Trainer is again calling for a meeting between supervisors and OCH Regional Medical Center trustees to discuss the future of county health care.
Trainer made the call in last week's board meeting while alluding to potential moves that could impact the county's financial bottom line. He made similar calls in August, but officials never decided upon a formal meeting date.
If the full five-person board of supervisors and seven-member hospital board do meet for formal discussions, it would be the first of its kind in years.
Talks of a potential hospital sale or lease have cooled since last year when Franklin, Tenn.-based Capella Healthcare offered $45 million in upfront cash for a 50-year lease. Then, the offer was considered moot since a financial analysis -- state law requires such an inventory before counties can formally pursue offers - went unapproved by supervisors.
Even though no other formal offers are on the table, Trainer said, interest in OCH from outside entities - Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation and North Mississippi Health Services, for example - remains strong.
The county should at least meet with hospital stewards and discuss the future of health care, as impacted by the Affordable Care Act's implementation and Mississippi's failure to expand Medicaid, he said.
"We can't afford not to look at it; a lot hinges on how we move forward," Trainer said.
Trainer acknowledged the sensitivity of the issue, which is often viewed by fellow board members as a third rail of local politics. When transaction rumors spread two years ago, hospital supporters rallied around the hospital and began a signature campaign designed to force any potential sale or lease to the ballots. Numerous pro-OCH events, including public information sessions, were held.
"We really need to talk about this -- not approach it hastily, but still look at our options to benefit the county," he said. "Emotions got in the way the first time, and a lot of fear was drummed up.
"I think the main thing on the community's mind is to try and find the right fit and partner," Trainer added. "We don't want to lose anything, but we want to better position ourselves as a county."
The board president and longest-serving supervisor last called for an independent analysis of OCH's financial health after administrators curbed expenses in October with a 5 percent pay cut and a reduction in total work hours.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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