In a statement released this week, Northwest Mississippi Medical Center announced that Delta Health System has signed an agreement to purchase the hospital and its related physician clinics and outpatient services.
The purchase is subject to customary regulatory approvals and closing conditions and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The transaction is subject to the Coahoma County Board of Supervisors approving the amendment and consent of the real property lease to Delta Health System.
Based in Greenville, Mississippi, Delta Health System holds medical care facilities in the Mississippi and Arkansas Delta.
The release said Delta Health System is focused on enhancing and growing quality care and services to meet community needs. It also said as part of the purchase agreement they are making a number of commitments to Northwest Mississippi Medical Center and the Coahoma County community.
When the transaction is complete, Northwest Mississippi Medical Center has said it will add service lines including cardiology, primary care and gastroenterology. DHS has experienced cardiologists ready to start on day one and will be sharing the resources of the recently launched Family Medicine Residency program to address the primary care needs; program residents will be making rounds in the Clarksdale facility.
“As the largest medical provider in the Mississippi and Arkansas Delta, Delta Health System is committed to taking a leadership role to sustain healthcare and keep it viable in our local communities,” said Scott Christensen, Delta Health System Chief Executive Officer. “We are excited about the possibilities to collaborate with the medical staff and employees of Northwest Mississippi Medical Center to deliver quality care and medical services for Coahoma County residents.”
Delta Health System is addressing the physician shortage challenge in the Delta through a newly launched Family Medicine Residency Program in which 24 new Family Medicine physicians will be practicing in the Delta region by 2023. Statistically, up to 60-percent of medical residents will put down roots where they practiced their residency. These residents will be making rounds in the Clarksdale facility and will help stabilize the healthcare workforce.
The purchase agreement includes a commitment for all employees in good standing at the time of the transaction close to continue employment with their current compensation levels and seniority. DHA plans to invest in its new employees through training, benefits and upward mobility opportunities.
An important immediate focus will be placed on the ER – reducing wait times, and making sure the physicians and nurses needed to manage the workflow are in place. DHS will also be investing in marketing and branding of the Clarksdale facility to make sure the community is aware of the changes, especially new service lines available locally.
“Delta Health System has been serving the region since 1953, making it an outstanding organization to support the availability of quality medical services for Clarksdale and Coahoma County,” said Joel Southern, Chief Executive Officer of Northwest Mississippi Medical Center.
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 also said in early October he had not seen any details of the plans by either CHS or DHS.
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
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:
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.