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Pro-OCH group preparing own public forum

July 1, 2012

OCH Regional Medical Center supporter Frank Davis agrees with Orlando Trainer when the District 2 supervisor says education is needed in regard to a potential hospital sale.
That’s why Davis and the members of a pro-OCH group are scheduling their own educational session separate from Trainer’s July 9 meeting.

Davis, a professor emeritus with Mississippi State University and former Starkville alderman, said plans are in the works to host a forum featuring OCH administrators at 5:30 p.m. July 12 at the Greensboro Center.
Davis’ session will feature OCH CEO Richard Hilton, other top administrators and the hospital’s board of trustees. Although the exact date has not been scheduled, Davis said any such session will be held after 5 p.m., a time more beneficial to all county residents.

 “We want the entire community to come out and hear about our hospital. We’ll have OCH administrators and the board of trustees there so we can hear their side of the story,” Davis said. “We want citizens to come in and meet Richard (Hilton) and ask questions.”

Other educational sessions are also in the planning stage, Davis said, and could be held at the hospital to provide citizens a direct line of communication with OCH employees.

Besides working to schedule the education sessions, Davis and other pro-OCH supporters have gone door-to-door in Oktibbeha County to drum up opposition to any possible sale or lease of the hospital. Last week, Davis said he collected over 200 signatures and received support in Starkville, Maben and Sturgis.

If the meeting’s date holds, it will fall three days after Trainer’s educational session. Trainer’s event, which he scheduled independently from the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors, will feature Richard Cowart, a representative of the Nashville-based Baker Donelson firm. The organization has represented hospitals and health care systems with almost 100 transactions in 15 states.

During the board’s June 25 meeting, members of the public questioned why Cowart was chosen to lead an educational session when he has ties to previous hospital transactions while representing Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation.

“Having a man come in and talk to us who has been paid by Baptist is like having a fox in the chicken house,” Developer Spencer Bailey said during the meeting’s public comment session. “I don’t think it would be fair to bring this man into Oktibbeha County.”

Although concerns developed about Cowart’s representation to potential hospital suitors, Trainer said his meeting will provide fairness to the situation. On June 25, Trainer said the full scope of health care possibilities will be discussed during the session.

“We’ve formally invited everyone; anyone is welcome to come,” Trainer said Sunday. “We’ll try to have it so it’s not tilted to one way so we can have an even-keel meeting.

Hilton said OCH administrators have not been formally invited to Trainer’s educational session, but Trainer said his public invitation applies to everyone, including hospital leaders.

“(Grassroots campaigners are) very energetic. I didn’t call them for their help, they came to us,” Hilton said Friday. “Everything you’ve seen happen (with the grassroots movement to block an OCH sale or lease) is not Richard Hilton directing people to do that; it’s the spark of the community. I think this movement will grow.

A copy of the board of supervisors’ agenda obtained Friday stated no OCH discussion was planned for today’s meeting.

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