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Court to consider Natchez hospital ombudsman

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NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) — A federal bankruptcy court overseeing Natchez Regional Medical Center's Chapter 9 filing may decide this week whether to appoint some to oversee patient care.

A hearing is scheduled Thursday in Natchez.

The hospital is opposing the appointment of an ombudsman.

Bankruptcy attorney Eileen Shaffer tells The Natchez Democrat (http://bit.ly/1gMTOkW) that any time there is a health care-related case, the question of an ombudsman come up.

"We don't think (the ombudsman) is necessary because we have enough internal controls to maintain quality of care," Shaffer said. "There is oversight by federal, state and local programs. Any time you interject a third party into a case, it creates a great amount of cost. We would rather see those dollars go to the creditors."

The county-owned hospital filed for bankruptcy in March month in what officials said was an effort to keep the facility's doors open after its financial liabilities exceeded its assets. The Adams County Board of Supervisors is waiting for a possible sale of the hospital.

"The ombudsman looks at factors like the quality of patient care, the financial ability of the hospital to maintain that care and the existence of an internal ombudsman program to protect patients," Shaffer said.

While the hospital board has retained its attorney, Walter Brown, as general counsel, Shaffer was hired to represent the hospital in the bankruptcy proceedings. She also represented the hospital during its 2009 bankruptcy.

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Information from: The Natchez Democrat, http://www.natchezdemocrat.com/

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