Supervisors seek meeting with OCH trustees

James Carskadon
Staff Writer

The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors said Monday it wants to schedule a meeting with the OCH Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees to discuss a possible strategic options assessment.
An independent strategic options assessment is legally required for the Board of Supervisors to be able to sell or lease the county-owned hospital.
Although both boards are public entities, at least two supervisors have expressed support for the discussions between the two boards to be held in a closed session.
Board President and District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer, who said he met with North Mississippi Medical Center CEO Shane Spees on March 21, started the hospital conversation during Monday’s supervisors meeting.
“Mr. Spees informed me that they are in the process of wanting to expand their footprint and do some real significant things in Oktibbeha County,” Trainer said.
North Mississippi Medical Center, a privately owned organization, operates several facilities in North Mississippi, including its flagship hospital in Tupelo.
Trainer initially proposed the supervisors draft a resolution asking the hospital trustees to support the possibility of conducting a hospital assessment. Before the resolution could be voted on, District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard instead suggested the two boards schedule a meeting and invite OCH CEO Richard Hilton and possibly Spees. Howard’s idea was met with approval from other supervisors.
“I’m not advocating moving forward with an assessment,” Howard said. “What I’m saying is these two boards need to sit down at a table and have some open dialogue about the hospital in general and what they foresee going forward with hospital. Get both sides of the coin, sort of speak.”
Both Howard and District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams said they would like the discussions to take place behind closed doors. Because the two boards involved are subject to open meetings laws, the meeting itself would be required to be public. However, the boards could elect to hold the talks in executive session if the boards discuss a potential purchase, sale or lease of property.
District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller did not comment during the hospital discussions in the boardroom, but said afterward she felt the talks between the two boards should be transparent and not held entirely in executive session.
Williams said he did not want the meeting to get out of control like past meetings where the hospital has been discussed. Last board term, many supporters of OCH came to board meetings to express their support of keeping the hospital under county control.
“I hope this meeting will be something just between boards and board members,” Williams said.
As board president, Trainer said he is “constantly approached” by different parties regarding healthcare opportunities in the county. Howard said a meeting between the two boards was long overdue, although Trainer said he has spoken with Hilton on multiple occasions.
“(Hilton) did assure me that their position was that if the supervisors decided to do anything, he wanted to make sure the trustees played a very active role in whatever discussion is pertaining to the hospital,” Trainer said.
The Board of Supervisors appoints the members of the hospital’s Board of Trustees.
Last term, Trainer also pushed for an assessment of the hospital, although it brought strong pushback from OCH supporters. The supervisors advertised for bids for an assessment, but a vote to authorize a company to conduct the assessment failed by one vote. No citizens came to Monday’s meeting to comment on the hospital.
Miller and Trainer, and possibly other supervisors, will attend a rural healthcare summit organized by Governor Phil Bryant next Monday in Jackson.