UMMC packs a punch

In a day or two, I will regroup and try to be positive about the possibilities of saving Greenwood Leflore Hospital.

But right now, I’m sick to hear that the University of Mississippi Medical Center decided that taking over our hospital wasn’t such a good idea after all.

By Friday, I had dismissed all doubters, even concluding that State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney had been misinformed in his statement that the lease with UMMC was unlikely.

I’m not the only one feeling this either. Greenwood Mayor Carolyn McAdams was so confident the final hurdles had been overcome that she shared in a TV interview, shortly before the UMMC bombshell, that she was confident the long-term lease was lucky.

She had good reason to think so. She had received a report less than three days earlier, following a meeting between Greenwood Leflore Hospital and UMMC officials, that the deal was looking very good.

It would be nice to know what has changed in the meantime.

I don’t know what our team could have done differently. You may question the wisdom of every cut made in recent months, but all were done in the hope that UMMC would eventually resume hospital operation.

Of course, we were all begging. It had become apparent at least a year ago that Greenwood Leflore Hospital was not likely to survive as a stand-alone hospital. But UMMC also saw something in the arrangement that would benefit its growing footprint.

He began informal talks with Greenwood Hospital officials even before the hospital took the statutory steps to advertise lease proposals. UMMC heightened its interest in August when it became the only medical institution to bid.

More than two months of constant negotiations followed. I’m not aware of all the sticking points, but when it came to two major sticking points in the end, this community had no hesitation in going along with what UMMC wanted.

UMMC demanded certain capital improvements that had been deferred due to the hospital’s financial difficulties, and they wanted to be sure that they would not be stuck with the outstanding balance of a loan the hospital had received from the federal Medicare program. The demands were reasonable, and within days last week, Greenwood and Leflore County officials agreed to find the money, about $9 million between them, even if it meant having to raise taxes to do so. I don’t know what else could have been expected of them. Or how Greenwood Hospital could have been more accommodating to its potential partner, including handing over some desirable outpatient clinics to UMMC even as hospital negotiations were still ongoing.

When you’re impacted by news like this, you tend to point fingers.

I will believe, however, that the UMMC was not just playing the game, that it really wanted to help save our hospital, even though it might be offering less services than the one to which

Greenwood had gotten used to it.

The only idea I had that UMMC might have any doubts was its insistence, from late October, that there was no way to get everything to submit it to the State College Board by January . I couldn’t understand why the UMMC, knowing that Greenwood Hospital was on the brink of insolvency, hadn’t shown a greater sense of urgency to get the paperwork done and approved sooner than that. No matter how complex the hospital lease documents are, they cannot be so complicated that it takes two months to prepare once all the main conditions have been settled.

There’s obviously more backing from UMMC than we know, but as the saying goes, “There’s no point in crying over spilled milk.”

There is also no time.

Even with the latest round of job cuts announced on Friday, Greenwood Hospital may not have enough money for the month of December.

If it has to close, it will be hell trying to reopen it. If I understand correctly, once a hospital closes for anything other than a short-term disaster, it loses its certificate of need. Having to get a new one issued by the state would be a regulatory nightmare that could drag on for months. And that ignores the need to resupply what would most likely be a severely depleted medical staff.

At this late stage, the only option – if there is one – is to find a way to keep the hospital running independently. That likely means more service cuts and an infusion funded by city and county taxpayers, but at least it would keep the doors open until another long-term solution can be found.

It is a crisis that calls for a response.

We thought we had one. Now we don’t. The future of this community depends on finding another, and fast.

– Contact Tim Kalich at 662-581-7243 or [email protected]

About Ricardo Schulte

Check Also

ASCI extends code for online advertisements

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), the self-regulatory body for the advertising industry, plans …