By CARL SMITH
The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors will hear a presentation on a possible hospital financial analysis from consultant Barry Plunkett during its 9 a.m. Monday meeting at the county courthouse.
Plunkett’s presentation is scheduled for 9:50 a.m., but the flow of county business could push the issue earlier or later in the day.
In a previous meeting, the board authorized bid proposals for a complete financial analysis of OCH Regional Medical Center, but supervisors have not voted to execute any such analysis. An in-depth study of the hospital’s financial condition is required by law if the board chooses to initiate any potential sale or lease of the facility.
In October, Board President Orlando Trainer said he was working to bring Plunkett, a consultant of Ridgeland-based Horne CPAs and Business Advisers, to Oktibbeha County for discussions on what such an analysis would mean to supervisors and the public. Horne CPAs handled similar hospital reviews in Greenwood and Grenada.
Plunkett said Horne has responded to the county’s request for proposals, and a baseline analysis would cost $35,000. Trainer said he believes Horne’s bid is currently the lowest bid the county received since the request was initiated.
“What we do through Horne is we do a complete study of the financial analysis, a physical and community perception analysis and also look at competition. It’s a really comprehensive study … that provides the hospital and the county valuable information that is gathered in an unbiased way.”
Plunkett said some communities that choose to look at their taxpayer-owned hospital do not always follow through with the mechanics of a sale or lease. Adams County officials, he said, executed an analysis within the last three years but retained their hospital following the study.
“Most of the time — and this is a misconception — people want to know what their hospital is worth. We don’t put a dollar value on these studies for two reasons,” he said. “First of all, we’re not qualified to make that assessment. Also, if we put a price on it, no one will pay a penny more than that price, I guarantee.
“An analysis usually includes a total financial analysis going back over five years,” Plunkett added. “We look at debt, the types of reimbursements you have — private insurance, commercial, uninsured, Medicaid/Medicare — contracts, leases and patient satisfaction and origin data. We also take a comprehensive tour of the facility and hold sit-down interviews with senior management, elected officials and business leaders.”
As the board’s newly elected president, Trainer said he would continue to make the hospital and improving county health care a top priority under his leadership. When asked if he would make a motion to execute a financial analysis Monday, Trainer said he would entertain any such attempt by fellow board members.
“Hopefully we can continue to drive this thing home and get the board to perhaps take action,” Trainer said. “It would be great if (authorizing an analysis) would have unanimous support, but it’s up to the will of the board.”
“With so much potential (associated with OCH Regional Medical Center), we cannot avoid it,” he added. “If the board wants to take action, then it wants to take action. If the board wants to continue deliberating, then that’s that. If citizens really want an opportunity to continue to weigh in, then we can have public hearings so everyone can become engaged. I think we’re at a really good spot because no one can say this has caught us by surprise. All I can do is … encourage anybody that wants to be a part of this process to come to our meetings.”
While discussion on OCH’s future continues from the county government, a new mail-out flyer urging citizens to pressure supervisors to go forward with a transaction hit county mailboxes this week.
Alluding to Tuesday’s General Election, the flyer, which is signed by county resident Norville Williams, asks voters to sign the following petition at the polls:
“I (blank space for a printed name) a registered voter/tax payer of Oktibbeha County request that my supervisor proceed with a comprehensive study to evaluate the operations of OCH with regard to entering into a sale or lease of the assets,” the petition states.
The flyer goes on to state “The Board of Supervisors is elected to follow the wishes of the majority of voters …” and “they are not doing their job.”
“Nobody knows how Obamacare will hurt the hospital or if they’ll come back asking for more money,” Williams said Friday, alluding to a previous voter-approved bond issue. “We want the county to take a fair look at the hospital.”
It is unknown who will attempt to distribute or collect the petitions Tuesday or at which voting precincts. Law states all campaigners and campaign material must stay outside a 30-foot radius of individual polling locations, Oktibbeha County Circuit Clerk Glenn Hamilton said.
Also, Hamilton said, any petition supporters or collectors cannot approach, influence or impede voters heading to the polls. Petition collectors may approach voters beyond 30 feet of the polls only after they have cast their ballots and are heading away from the precinct.