The pros and cons of selling Tri Lakes Medical Center will be voiced at a public hearing at 6 p.m. on March 11 at the courthouse in Batesville.
That was the outcome of unanimous votes Monday morning at the courthouse in Batesville of both the Panola County Board of Supervisors and the Batesville Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
The two groups had come together to hear a recommendation from its consultant, J.C. Burns of Burns Development Group of Ridgeland.
On March 11, or at a later date, the two boards will vote whether to advertise for bids or not.
Originally, the boards sought lease proposals but only one entity, Triad Hospitals, Inc., of Plano, Texas, followed the request and submitted a lease plan.
That plan, according to Burns, fell through when an agreement could not be worked out for Triad to pay off all of the approximately $22 million in outstanding bond debt.
Baptist Memorial Health Care Inc., of Memphis, did not follow the request and instead submitted a plan seeking to buy the hospital.
A third proposal, which was omitted during the narrowing-down process, was submitted by interim administrator Dr. Bob Corkern and the current hospital board. Corkern wants the hospital to remain as is for two years at which time he would buy it.
Burns, a former Batesville resident, said the law requires the bidding process and said if the matter is delayed for two years, "then we’ll have to go through the whole process again."
By that, Burns was talking, in part, about a study of the financial status of the hospital – something that was done by the Atlanta office of the national accounting firm Ernst & Young.
It’s a study, that Larry Pratt, vice chairman of the hospital board, said should be done again. He said Ernst & Young used data from the hospital’s "worst" financial period.
Pratt was among a number of people who spoke at the meeting Monday.
Pratt questioned the selection of Ernst & Young which he said was hired for about $100,000 when another firm, Horne, of Jackson, was "equally qualified" and would have done it for $17,000.
Additionally, the meter is still running on Burns’ charges which so far are in the $200,000 range.
Burns said he has no personal preference in the outcome of the issue.
"This is my community," Burns said. "Tearing this community apart is not what I’m about."
Hospital Board Chairman George Randolph said the hospital is currently on the right track financially and medically.
"We are looking forward to expanding the facilities and providing additional medical services, he said before turning the podium over to Corkern.
Corkern told the boards that when the process began, "the hospital was in dire trouble … something that would lead one to believe there was only one solution" – to get rid of the hospital.
"There has been a complete turnaround in this hospital. The facts of that are irrefutable. There is no question," he said.