Supervisors end efforts to lease county hospital

SPECIAL TO THE SENTINEL/ The Tippah County Board of Supervisors declined the bid of Pioneer Health Services to lease and operate the Tippah County Hospital.  The Supervisors’ decision ends a six month process to locate a hospital organization to takeover hospital operations.  However, Supervisors said that the Tippah County Hospital must make significant changes in order to become financially stable.
“Pioneer was unwilling to invest any of its own money into the facility so the Board determined that the County would be better off continuing to operate the facility.” said Board President Eddie Stroupe.
Pioneer offered to lease the Hospital for 20 years at its own expense.  However, the costs of maintaining the structure along with any significant improvements would remain with the county.
Last fall, the Board of Supervisors hired Horne, CPA to conduct a study on the overall operations of the Tippah County Hospital.  Horne CPA concluded that the Board of Supervisors should seek proposals from several larger hospital organizations for a long-term lease of the Hospital.
After considering Horne’s recommendations, Horne assisted the Board of Supervisors in preparing a “Request for Proposals” wherein a larger hospital organization submits an offer to lease the Hospital.  The Board then selected six hospital organizations in Mississippi and Tennessee from which to seek proposals.  As part of their proposals, each organization was required to maintain the existing operations of the Hospital and to invest its own money in the facility over the period of the lease.  Supervisors said that this was the same process followed by many of our surrounding counties when those hospitals were leased or sold.
In February, the Board received a bid from Pioneer Health Systems for a long term lease of the Hospital.  Pioneer operates several critical access throughout Mississippi including the hospital in Aberdeen.  The remaining organizations including North Mississippi Health Services and Baptist Memorial Healthcare of Tennessee declined to submit lease proposals.
Supervisors and Hospital Trustees met with the Pioneer officials and carefully reviewed the proposal.  Ultimately, the Supervisors determined that it was in the best interest of the Hospital and the County to decline the proposal.
Supervisors said that they received useful feedback from the organizations that declined to submit final bids.  Specifically, Supervisors were told that significant changes must be made to the Hospital for it to become financially stable.
Based on those recommendations, the Supervisors and Trustees are developing a plan to return the Hospital to profitability.  Hospital Trustees and Supervisors met on March 4 to formally decline Pioneer’s proposal and to determine the best path for the ongoing operations of the Hospital.
“The Supervisors and Trustees are working closely to make the necessary changes to return the Hospital to profitability.” said Stroupe.
Trustees plan to convert the Hospital to a Critical Access Hospital which will increase the Medicare reimbursements but will not affect the current services.  The Trustees must also reduce staffing.  Finally, the Hospital will end its participation in the Public Employees’ Retirement System and replace it with a 401(k) program.  Currently, the Hospital spends more than $700,000.00 annually to keep its employees in the PERS system.
“We are blessed with good doctors and nurse practitioners who provide quality care to our County along with the staff at the Hospital.”  said Stroupe.  “The Supervisors and Trustees are committed to making the Hospital successful.”

About Beth Thomas

Beth Thomas Harmon is the news editor for the Southern Sentinel. She graduated from the University of Mississippi in 2011 with a degree in journalism. Beth is a New Albany native, and she began working at the Sentinel in 2013.