Hospital bankruptcy bill signed by governor

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News,Business,Mississippi

NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) — Natchez Regional Medical Center now has state approval to pursue Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

Gov. Phil Bryant has signed a bill passed by lawmakers that clears the way for the Adams County-owned hospital to go ahead with the appropriate court filings.

The hospital filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and exited it later that year. The current bankruptcy action became necessary to keep the hospital's doors open, when financial liabilities exceeded its revenues by $3 million.

The Rev. Leroy White, chairman of the hospital's board of trustees, told The Natchez Democrat (http://bit.ly/1gU0G0p) he will meet with the bankruptcy attorney, Eileen Shaffer of Jackson, who also worked with the hospital during its 2009 bankruptcy.

"Last time, she did an outstanding job, and that is why we got her again," White said.

NRMC's attorney, Walter Brown, said the trustees will meet with the county board of supervisors Tuesday to update them on the process.

"We need to sit down with the board of supervisors to go over the plan and make sure we are all in agreement about the process. It is not a supervisors' matter, but the board (of trustees) has tried to keep the supervisors apprised of what is going on," he said.

Brown said the hospital has been gathering information for the filing for several weeks.

"You have to have everything done on the front end so that you have your plan of how you are going to proceed and operate during the bankruptcy," he said. "The court wants to see that, and the creditors want to see that. You file most of your documentation with the petition in order to have a complete picture before the court."

Brown said Wednesday the hospital will request the court grant a "debtor in possession" status to NRMC, which will allow the current administration to remain in place throughout the process.

NRMC opened in 1960 as Jefferson Davis Memorial Hospital. Its $2.4 million construction was underwritten by an $800,000 local contribution and state and federal funds.

It has been financially independent since 1974 and does not receive tax support, but is backed by a 5-mill standby tax that the Mississippi Development Bank required the hospital to get in 2006 when it asked for the MDB to reissue its revenue bond.

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

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