• Carey Meitzler

Supervisors vote to negotiate lease of Pearl River County Hospital

The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors voted today to move forward with negotiations with Forrest Health Systems to enter into a 12 year lease for the operation of the Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home in Poplarville.

Previous coverage shows the hospital has been required to pay back $5.9 million to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) due to problems with overbilling for claims by previous management of the hospital. Earlier this year, the hospital sought help from the board of supervisors in securing a loan at a much lower interest rate that the 10.75 percent rate in place with CMS for the repayment of the money.

The Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home is a county owned facility, but the Board of Supervisors does not manage the hospital. The Board of Supervisors appoints a five-member Board of Trustees that works with the hospital to provide oversight on the day to day operations. The county can levy up to 5 mills for the hospital, but only currently levies 1 mill to provide funding to assist to hospital.

During the supervisors meeting on June 5, 2019, CEO James Williams stated that the hospital board had reported the wrongdoing to CMS, but CMS basically did not go after the wrongdoers, but instead put the burden on the hospital for the $5.9 million.

In the June meeting, Williams said that while it has been a challenge to pay down the amount owed to CMS, the hospital had the debt owed down to approximately $3.2 million. Williams said that each month, CMS takes about $120,000 cash from monies that would normally be going into the hospital’s checking account.

At today’s meeting, Board President Sandy Kane Smith summarized the board’s actions on the hospital before the board made motions and voted.

“With CMS, this board has tried more than you will ever know. We’ve been to D.C. (Washington) to do everything we could to try to help this hospital. Our hearts are in this and we are doing what we think is the best thing for this hospital and this community. This is not something that we just threw together. We’ve been tussling with this thing.”

District Two Supervisor Malcolm Perry made three motions to the board.

This first motion was to reject any and all proposals or options to purchase of the Pearl River County Hospital. That motion passed unanimously.

Perry’s second motion was to leave all proposals open until March 19,2020, according to the terms issued in the request for proposals. That motion passed unanimously.

In his third motion, Perry stated that the board select Forrest Health as the highest and best proposer for leasing of the Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home conditional upon negotiation of a 12 year lease of the PR County Hospital, Clinic, and Nursing Home that is acceptable to the county for all applicable certificates of need, operating licenses, and other regulatory authority.

Supervisors Donald Hart, Perry, Farron Moeller, and Smith voted for the motion with District 3 Supervisor Hudson Holliday voting against it.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the board went into executive session with representatives with Forrest Health Systems.

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