Firm Will Buy Minority Shares of Natchez Hospital

NATCHEZ, MS (AP) — The chief executive of Natchez's two newly combined hospitals says Community Health Systems will buy out a group of 10 physicians who own part of Natchez Community Hospital as part of its consolidation with Natchez Regional Medical Center.

Vershal Hogan with the The Natchez Democrat reports CEO Eric Robinson said the Tennessee-based company, which bought Natchez Regional out of bankruptcy, will try to cut jobs through attrition. He told a group of business leaders Friday that it's too soon to tell what consolidation will ultimately look like, in part because the parent company hopes one stronger hospital will keep more patients in Natchez and recruit more physicians.

"There is no list, we don't have names crossed off or checks by some," he said. "We anticipate it is not going to be as great as everybody seems to be talking it is going to be."

Robinson said the 10 percent pay cuts that a majority of NRMC employees endured in the hospital's final months of operation have been reversed.

He said that both hospitals have had trouble recruiting employees, and consolidation should ease those struggles. He said that Natchez will also be a more attractive destination now that doctors won't face pressure to be on staff at two hospitals.

"What has complicated that in Natchez, a town this size, is that you have to get on staff at both hospitals because patient loyalties lie with one hospital or the other," he said. "They have to take calls at both, and other physicians may wonder about medical staff politics, but when you consolidate that all goes away."

With the purchase, Community Health Systems announced plans to consolidate both hospitals into one at the Natchez Regional campus, which will be renovated to handle the increased patient capacity.

The company, Mississippi's largest hospital operator and already the majority owner of Natchez Community, paid $10 million for the county-owned hospital. Community Health Systems also agreed to prepay $8 million in property taxes to the county to cover the gap between the sale price and what is needed to pay the bonds and other costs associated with the sale and bankruptcy.

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