August 20, 2013 10:56:47 AM
Carl Smith - [email protected]
Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Orlando Trainer and OCH Regional Medical Center CEO Richard Hilton both confirmed Monday that plans are in the works to discuss the future of county health care in a joint public session between county representatives and hospital trustees.
Supervisors met Monday but did not discuss the potential meeting in open session as it was not listed on the county's agenda. Such a meeting would be the first of its kind in years, supervisors and Hilton said Monday. District 3 Supervisor and former Board President Marvell Howard said such a meeting has not been held since he took office in 2008.
Trustees and supervisors are expected to discuss the direction of county health care, OCH's finances and potential outside interest in a hospital transaction. A potential financial analysis, one that is mandated by state law before any transaction can proceed, could also become a discussion point.
The meeting does not signal a change of heart toward any potential hospital transaction by OCH trustees; rather, it would serve as an open discussion on the issues and an educational session for supervisors.
Hilton confirmed he was contacted by County Administrator Don Posey to schedule a meeting, but at least one OCH trustee was unavailable for discussions Monday. Hilton said he is awaiting a next phase of scheduling options and looks forward to discussions with supervisors.
The meeting could be scheduled after the board attends to its Fiscal Year 2014 budget. A budget hearing was scheduled by the board for 9 a.m. Sept. 13.
Supervisors recessed Monday's meeting instead of adjourning until Sept. 2. That move would allow the board to come back into session before its next regularly scheduled meeting, but such a gathering is not expected this week since a public Oktibbeha County school consolidation hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday afternoon at the Greensboro Center. Trainer sits on the Commission on Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Structure and will be in attendance for the public hearing and the group's formal August meeting scheduled for earlier that day.
In its last public meeting, the board agreed discussions with OCH trustees were needed after the county received an offer of $45 million in upfront cash for a 50-year hospital lease from Franklin, Tenn.-based Capella Healthcare.
The offer is considered moot since a financial analysis has not been completed on OCH's cash flow.
"The consensus then was that the board was willing to sit and talk with trustees, and I think the same consensus is there with the OCH administration and its trustees," Howard said. "I'm guessing we'll sit down sometime within the next three weeks.
Two new OCH trustees are expected to participate in future county discussions. Two of the board's seven members -- Leon Mathis and Betty Evans -- resigned their posts this month. Mathis was replaced by Linda Breazeale, a Howard nominee, earlier this month, while the board named Minnie Fox as Evans' successor Monday. Fox was nominated by District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch