By CARL SMITH
District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery says he does not believe the board of supervisors should continue exploring a possible OCH Regional Medical Center sale and he will not cast further votes in favor of continuing the process.
Montgomery said uncertainty surrounding the future of health care under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a personal inspection of the hospital’s financial records and clarity from OCH administrators led him to make the decision this week.
Since public discussion began on OCH’s future, Montgomery never publicly committed to either selling or keeping the hospital. In June, he, along with District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer and District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams, voted in favor of authorizing the county to seek proposals for an outside financial analysis of the hospital required by state law before a potential sale. Following previous educational sessions, Montgomery said he was simply on a fact-finding mission about the hospital and its ability to deliver quality health care in the future.
“I met with (OCH CEO) Richard Hilton and looked through the financials. If we couldn’t finance (health care for the future), that was my concern. I did thorough research, and I feel the hospital is sound (financially) for the future. I had a lot of concerns and questions cleared up,” Montgomery said. “There are no guarantees for the future of health care under the new guidelines, and that’s what makes (a potential hospital transaction) really too risky for the community. First and foremost, I want the very best health care for our community, but at the same time we are limited to the types of additional services we can bring in because of our population size. I think OCH’s administrators are doing everything they can do to bring in as many doctors and services.”
Out of the three supervisors who voted to for the analysis, Hilton said Montgomery is the only representative who came to him for one-on-one financial review sessions.
“(Board President) Marvell (Howard) and (District 4 Supervisor) Daniel (Jackson) have been strong supporters of the hospital in the past; they understand it’s sound financially. Being a new supervisor, I think John had those questions anyone would have in that situation and wanted the facts. I don’t have a problem with him going through his due diligence. He’s a professional individual, he acted and he was smart enough from a professional standpoint to start looking into things. I admire him for that,” Hilton said. “An open invitation for questions about the hospital’s services and financial projections extends to the board of supervisors and to the public at any time.”
When asked if Montgomery’s stance effectively ends the traction for a potential hospital sale, Trainer said the board should continue to move forward with the process if support is still there. Although the board approved analysis-seeking advertising, County Administrator Don Posey said Monday no such advertising has actually occurred. It is unknown when advertisements will run, and the board has not set a deadline for proposals.
Montgomery says supervisors and OCH trustees should work closely together in the future and keep all lines of communication open. He said is open to quarterly meetings and others on an as-needed basis between the two entities to help clear up any questions from either side in the future.
“I think us supervisors and the trustees need to strive to work together and ensure we do everything we can to make our county hospital everything it can be in the future,” Montgomery said.