Friends of OCH address concerns at organizational meeting

Supporters of keeping OCH Regional Medical Center locally owned sign up with Friends of OCH to lend their support in efforts moving forward ahead of the Nov. 7 special election referendum vote (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN) 

More than a hundred people came to the Greensboro Center on Monday night for an organizational meeting hosted by Friends of OCH Regional Medical Center. 

The meeting was geared toward answering questions, dispelling rumors and garnering support in the community to keep the hospital locally-owned when the issue comes up for a referendum vote on the Nov. 7 special election ballot. 

Organizers of the event - led primary by retired surgeon Dr. Thomas Parvin and MSU employee Libba Andrews - went through a PowerPoint presentation, displaying ways those in support of keeping OCH locally owned could contribute to the cause. This included donating money, buying and wearing yellow supportive T-shirts and giving their time to the cause. 

Also included in the presentation was a bulleted list of “Misleading/False info being spread by those FOR the sale of OCH.” 

The bullet points included several aspects of the deal viewed negatively by Friends of OCH, such as the contractual guarantee of no job loss if the hospital is sold and that OCH’s retirement funds have been mismanaged. 

However, the reoccurring misconception addressed by those holding the meeting and those in attendance was the “misleading” information regarding the hospital’s finances. 

The Starkville Daily News reported earlier this month when OCH recorded a cumulative operational loss of $5.1 million over from October 2016 to July 2017 - $4.4 million of which was tied to non-cash depreciation and amortization. 

Despite the bottom line loss, OCH is able to cover the costs through its reserves, which was another point brought up at the organizational meeting. 

Cheryl Guyton, 59, was relieved to hear the hospital had enough set aside to cover any cash loss, but said the possibility of the hospital closing and laying off employees were things she already knew could come if the hospital was sold to a for-profit entity. 

“I think (those in attendance) got their questions answered,” Guyton told the SDN following the meeting. “They gave some facts, things we could use to share with other people. Some of the things we had already researched on our own.” 

Of these facts, Friends of OCH said the hospital had an estimated $127.7 million local economic impact in 2016, spending $7 million locally every year. 

Also, the hospital’s cash and investment assets totaled over $21 million as of July 31, which those opposed to the selling of OCH cite as an indicator of the hospital’s economic vitality. 

Another fear voiced by several at the meeting and in the community revolves around the use of taxpayer dollars to fund hospital operations. 

Those in support of keeping the hospital locally owned say the funds for the operation of OCH comes from orders of physicians and providers for providing medical/surgical care. What’s more, supporters point to a countywide vote in 2008, where the county vote showed 61 percent of voters approved for the county to take on bonds for a hospital facility expansion project. 

The bonds approved for the hospital’s expansion were tied directly to capital improvements completed in February 2012 - not ongoing daily operational expenses. 

Frank Davis - who helped organize the grassroots petition effort to bring the matter to a referendum vote - said the group will soon ramp up its efforts to galvanize support among voters in the county. 

“The turnout was outstanding,” Davis said. “I’m so glad to see that we’ve got so many ladies, so many men that will be out there. We’re saving OCH.”

Patsy Prisock, human resources assistant at OCH, said the biggest misconception she was relieved to see addressed related to the hospital’s finances. 

“People think that taxes are going up, but if we keep the hospital going that is absolutely not true,” Prisock said.”If they want strength in their county, they need to keep their hospital county-owned
Prisock told the SDN she felt positive about the direction of the efforts to keep the hospital locally owned and was pleased with the turnout at Monday’s organizational meeting."

“I feel more ensured of the facts, I feel more confident in being able to spread the facts so people know what they’re voting for,” Prisock said. “If people choose to vote against the hospital, they need to know why they are voting against it and we certainly want everybody to vote for the hospital.”