Tri-Lakes Hospital

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 6, 2009

Tri-Lakes hospital could be in new hands by May

By John Howell Sr.

Tri-Lakes Medical Center could be transferred into the hands of its new owner in May, Chief Restructuring Officer (CRO) Michael Morgan said Wednesday.

By then, the facility is likely to have been sold through a bankruptcy Section 363 asset sale. Bankruptcy Judge David Houston moved the process forward last week with the selection of Allied Health Partners, LLC, as the leading bidder, known as a “stalking horse.”

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Allied Health Partners, LLC is one of four groups that have expressed interest in buying the hospital. Batesville doctors Mike Havens and Billy Haire are investors in Allied Health Partners, Havens has said.

Meridian gastroenterologist Dr. Thomas Crowson is a principal in the company, Morgan said. Crowson is a Batesville native, the son of long-serving alderman, the late Dewey Crowson, and Mrs. Crowson.

“We would love to buy the Tri-Lakes hospital, and have it provide first quality medical care for the area there,” Crowson stated in reply to an email inquiry. “You have some very good doctors there, and they, too, want only first quality medical care for their patients.  Many of them will be very involved with the hospital, should we be fortunate enough to acquire it,” Crowson added.

“Our company bought Alliance Health Center in Meridian and Laird’s Hospital in Union several years ago and sold them about three years ago,” Crowson said. Crowson graduated from Ole Miss in 1963 and became a Certified Public Accountant in Houston, Texas.

He returned to Mississippi to attend the University of Mississippi Medical School and specialized in gastroenterology at Ochsner Foundation Hospital in New Orleans.

Crowson’s company has interest in real estate projects in five states in addition to Mississippi and in Quebec, Canada, he said.

Key elements permitting the sale to move forward include the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) allowing “a qualified bidder to assume the current USDA note,” Morgan said. The note’s current balance is $27.5 million, he added. The USDA guaranteed loan from Stillwater (Oklahoma) and UPS banks financed the purchase of Tri-Lakes from the City of Batesville and Panola County in November 2005, by Physicans and Surgeons Hospital Group. Physicans and Surgeons Hospital Group declared bankruptcy in August 2007.

A decision by the State Division of Medicaid provides a second factor facilitating the Section 363 sale. Medicaid’s attempt to recover overpayments to Tri-Lakes, estimated as high as $23 million, were cited in the August 2007 bankruptcy petition.

“Medicaid has advised us that they will work with any qualified buyer not associated with the previous administration,” the CRO said.

A third factor in the sale is a positive cash flow achieved during bankruptcy.

“The reason we have been able to sell the hospital is because we’ve had 13 months of positive EBITA” (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Amortization), Morgan said.

The hospital has moved from a September, 30, 2007, EBITA of minus $7.5 million to a positive $2.8 million EBITA for the last 12 months, the CRO said. The EBITA figure does not include bankruptcy case costs that have ranged from $100,000 to $150,000 monthly, he said.

Morgan’s Healthcare Management Partners (HMP) was named the hospital’s administrator in December 2007. The firm specializes in managing health facilities in crisis. HMP’s role will end, “the day a new bidder takes over,” Morgan said.

“You can make this the jewel of Batesville if it’s managed properly,” he added.