Supervisors hear consultant on OCH analysis

November 6, 2012 10:26:00 AM



In what is starting to become a regularly scheduled déjà vu, Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Orlando Trainer again focused attention on the county hospital at the board's first November meeting Monday. 


Trainer brought in Horne CPAs, a consultant group out of Jackson which has worked with other counties in the state through their Code 41-13-15 process, a state statute that requires an analysis of a county-owned hospital before it is leased or sold. 


It would cost the county an estimated $35,000 to bring in Horne to do the analysis. Monday's presentation explained how the process works. 


In July, Trainer spear-headed a public education discussion about future possibilities for OCH Regional and brought in a representative from Baker Donelson's Health Law Department to give examples of how other counties in the state have handled public health-care developments. 


In the weeks leading up to that session in July, and in the months since, Trainer has not let the issue slip from anyone's mind, despite a vocal, organized opposition.  


That opposition turned out Monday morning, too. About 15 members of the public who are opposed to any sale of the hospital attended the 9 a.m. meeting.  


OCH CEO Richard Hilton, along with other OCH administration, sat in the middle of the courtroom along the back row and listened quietly as Horne's Barry Plunkett explained the actual process of a 41-13 analysis. 


Plunkett said the process includes a financial audit as well as taking a close look at the operations, physical plant of the campus, the perception of stake holders, patient reviews and even the elected officials in the county. 


"This starts to provide a document that allows administration to have a wealth of information," Plunkett said. "Then you have a third-party opinion regardless of what the county decides to do; you can use it to help develop a strategic plan or just to address some issues you didn't know were there." 


A comprehensive report would be given to the supervisors, and Horne would make recommendations to what the future might look like if two or three scenarios are followed. 


"One (option) could be don't do a thing," Plunkett pointed out.  


He added that at any time during the process, if the county feels they no longer want to pursue, then they can stop immediately. 


"There are so many stopping points that you can say, we are going no further," Plunkett said. "But along the way you are learning what is out there." 


But Hilton said all of the information and data Plunkett and the Horne group are saying they can gather can be gathered by the trustees and administration at OCH. He also said that to suggest OCH is in a poor shape, in any terms, is simply false. 


"We are very proactive in trying to do the things that we can do and do them well," Hilton said. "We have positioned ourselves to perform very well going over the next 15 to 20 years. We don't just sit by and wait for things to come to us." 


Trainer's continued attempts to pursue this analysis, in Hilton's opinion, is costing OCH potential physician recruits, who might avoid Starkville because of the possibility of OCH joining a major hospital system. 


Hilton said these systems operate closed medical staffs, and doctors employed by these hospitals are given much less autonomy than OCH's open medical staff can provide. 


"We would really like this to settle down so physicians aren't presented with barriers on wanting to come to Starkville because they are afraid the hospital is going to be sold," he said.  


Even so, Trainer showed no signs of relenting and suggested that the OCH Board of Trustees and administration sit down for the first time since the sale was brought up. 


"I have a wealth of information I want to share with you guys, so let's all sit down," Trainer said. "I understand the sensitivity, but we need to have some continued discussion on this matter." 


Hilton said OCH trustees are ready to meet with Trainer and that some clout should be added to the financial strength of OCH once an audit from local firm Watkins, Ward and Stafford is finished.