The Economic Development Authority of Coahoma County has been asked by Coahoma County Supervisors to assist in the process of watching how the county may transition its lease of Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center to a new lease holder.
Delta Health System officers and representatives for Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center met with the Coahoma County Board of Supervisors Oct. 5 to discuss the possible management and lease of the hospital.
Delta Health System (DHS), of Greenville, and Community Health Systems (CHS), current manager of Northwest Regional in Clarksdale, met with supervisors in executive session for about 15-minutes that Monday, but no formal vote or action was taken.
Coahoma County holds the lease on Northwest Regional with CHS.
Board of Supervisors President Johnny Newson said at that time the county was told CHS and DHS had been talking for about eight months.
Newson said this week he was seeking to clarify the county’s stance in this deal.
“I know there are a lot of rumors out there that some group may ‘take over, ‘may buy’ our hospital,” said Newson reading a prepared statement. “The fact is that no deal has been struck with any group that would see us reassign our current lease from CHS to another operator.”
Newson went on to say supervisors are committed to providing a sustainable hospital and healthcare services in the community.
“We will take whatever time is necessary to accomplish that,” said Newson. “We will seek information and advice from a variety of sources so that we have all that we need necessary, when the time comes, to make an informed decision.
“Among others, I have instructed the executive director of the EDA to assist in this process, which he has agreed to do.”
Jon Levingston is the director of EDA and answers to a board of directors made up of key leaders in the community.
The transition of the hospital to a new owner or manager is complex and has many moving parts.
The county holds a 30-year lease with CHS with about 15-years left on that lease. That lease has been cited as a key factor in the hospital not closing during the bankruptcy of Curae in 2018.
CHS also pays approximately $500,000 in taxes to the county. DHS is owned by Washington County and does not pay taxes.
Hammering out a deal by the end of the year would help CHS on its tax liability.
CHS took over management of Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center from Curae in May 2019. Curae declared bankruptcy in August 2018 with hospitals in Clarksdale, Amory and Batesville directly affected. The Amory hospital was sold to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo and the Batesville hospital was sold to a group of local investors.
The Coahoma County Board of Supervisors issued a statement in November 2018 saying they planned “to continue operations at Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center with the ultimate goal of identifying a new buyer for the hospital.”
Coahoma County signed an agreement with Trilogy Healthcare Solutions in June 2019. Trilogy, of Ridgeland, was brought into the mix to walk the county through a new working agreement with CHS or to transition the county and CHS in going separate ways.
Trilogy met with DHS in Greenville earlier this month to obtain information and data that would allow them to advise the county and offer their opinion on details of the lease and possible transition.
The county had a Hospital Trust Fund of approximately $30 million from the sale of the facility several years ago and that fund has dropped to roughly $26 million. The county took $3 million to meet payroll while the hospital was in bankruptcy. Hospital Trust funds are earmarked and must be spent in specific ways related to local healthcare.
The Hospital Trust Fund is serviced in part by the county’s lease of the hospital.
Community Health Systems, Inc. is one of the nation’s leading operators of general acute care hospitals. The organization’s affiliates own, operate or lease 106 hospitals in 18 states with approximately 17,000 licensed beds.
CHS officials met with supervisors in February to request the county address five projects or plans for the hospital.
Changes to the lease requested by CHS were:
• Removing the glass solarium along the front of the hospital.
• Moving the Hicks Healthcare trailer off property behind the hospital.
• Giving the 3,000 square-foot nursing school back to the county.
• Giving 12.1 acres of land on Ohio Avenue back to the county.
• Tear down and remove the Flowers Wing.
Delta Health System has a presence in Clarksdale with Dr. Mtanius Sultani and Clarksdale Cancer Center.
DHS administers nine clinics or locations and has approximately 325 beds. They serve seven counties in Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. DHS has experienced growth and name changes in the last 57 years. Originally called the Washington County General Hospital DHS changed their name from Delta Regional Medical Center to Delta Health System earlier this month.
Trilogy’s report to supervisors in October 2019 said the current 181-bed hospital in Clarksdale was built in 1952 and much of the infrastructure at the sprawling facility is in need of repair. The report also suggested the hospital footprint be reduced to about 50 beds.
The report said the hospital sees roughly 24,000 people annually through its emergency room and it acts as “the front door” for the hospital.
Northwest Regional is currently a Level 4 Trauma Center meaning they can handle most emergencies and can perform surgery to stabilize patients before sending them to a Level 5 Trauma Center – the medical professions highest level of care.
Northwest Regional is also a primary stroke center and routinely offers a better outcome for patients who have had a stroke. The hospital is also an accredited chest pain center.
The hospital has a Labor and Delivery Suite, which includes two labor/delivery rooms, five regular labor rooms, two delivery rooms and a 23-bassinet newborn and intensive care nursery. Northwest Regional saw over 700 births in 2018 or about two a day.