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Trustees OK Hilton to gather information on affiliation


OCH Regional Medical Center CEO Richard Hilton, right, speaks during a Wednesday board meeting. Hospital trustee Linda Breazeale is at left.

OCH Regional Medical Center CEO Richard Hilton, right, speaks during a Wednesday board meeting. Hospital trustee Linda Breazeale is at left. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff


Alex Holloway



OCH Regional Medical Center CEO Richard Hilton will contact three hospital system CEOs to see if the hospital should consider an affiliation. 


The county owned hospital's board of trustees unanimously authorized Hilton to contact the systems during a Wednesday special-call meeting. 


Hilton said two hospital system CEOs approached him last year over a possible affiliation with the hospital. However, he never brought the matter to trustees because county supervisors were ramping up for a possible sale or lease of OCH. 


"I didn't see any sense in continuing any discussions not knowing exactly ... whether or not there would be enough of a drive from the petition standpoint to get a referendum called," Hilton said. "As we know, history has seen all those things did take place." 


A third system CEO approached Hilton about eight weeks ago. He said they were not interested in buying OCH, but only in affiliation, should the hospital remain county owned. 


On Tuesday, voters rejected a sale of the hospital by a 58 percent to 41 percent margin. 


With the vote decided and the trustees' authorization, Hilton will contact the CEOs again to see what affiliation options are available for OCH. He hopes to report back to the board by December or January. 


"My feeling is this is something, from my standpoint as administration, we don't need to drag this process out over a long period," Hilton said. "(We will) try to get as much information as quickly as possible and get it back to you guys so you can have good discussion on that and find out what additional questions you would like to have answered before doing anything in a formal way." 


So far, it's not known what systems approached Hilton to affiliate. Hilton, speaking to media after the board meeting, said the systems will be "familiar" but requested confidentiality. He said it probably won't be long after he returned to trustees before the systems are revealed. 




Baptist open to affiliation talks 


Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation and North Mississippi Health Services submitted bids to purchase OCH prior to the election. 


Baptist President and CEO Jason Little, in a statement issued to The Dispatch, said his system would be interested in an affiliation should OCH choose to pursue one. 


"If that was what the hospital thought was best for its patients and the community, we would be interested in an affiliation," Little said. 


North Mississippi did not respond to requests for comment. 


An affiliation would allow OCH to reap some of the benefits that come through partnering with a larger system while maintaining the hospital's local owners. Hilton said it could help in bringing in services, on a part-time basis, that Starkville can't support on its own. 


"Revenue enhancement through physician specialties -- that's one I think is very important," Hilton said. "There are just a lot of specialists that will not come to Starkville because it does not have the population base for a full-time basis. But they may be willing to come on a shared basis." 


Board of Trustees Chairman Linda Breazeale said trustees will consider whatever Hilton presents to see if it will work for Oktibbeha County. 


"The trustees are always looking for ways to improve our services," Breazeale said. "We don't want to rule anything out. We want to look at all the options that are out there and consider what is best for Starkville and for Oktibbeha County. 


"What works in one community may not work here," she added. "We know our hospital and we know our communities, so we want to find what is the best fit for us."




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