Baptist commits to locate within Oxford

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

OXFORD – The new Oxford hospital will be within the city limits. Officials from Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation made that commitment to the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors on Monday.
Negotiations over the sale of the hospital and its license – jointly owned by Lafayette County and the City of Oxford – to Baptist became contentious after the Memphis-based hospital system bought land outside city limits on Highway 6 West.
“We will commit to stay within the current city limits and not use the ‘Black Bear’ property,” said Jason Little, chief operating officer of the Memphis-based system. “We hope that will be viewed favorably by the board.
“Our hope is that with that commitment we’ll … be past the conversations that have occupied our time the past several weeks.”
Little listed 14 sites that have been considered for the new hospital. Those still in the running, he said, include Coleman property, Highway 7 South; Callicut property; Highway 7 South; Avent (Oxford Commons) property, Sisk Avenue off Highway 7 North; former Whirlpool plant, south of Highway 6 between Old Taylor Road and Coliseum Drive; Insight Park, the University of Mississippi’s research park south of Highway 6 between Coliseum Drive and Jackson Avenue; Trezevant property near Highway 6 and Jackson Avenue; Trezevant property near University-Oxford Airport; and one unnamed site.
Two remaining contentions surfaced regarding the hospital sale. District 2 Supervisor Johnny Morgan had pushed for a clause in the memorandum of understanding requiring all negotiators on the deal to have no financial dealings with Baptist for five years. Attorney Dick Cowart, who was representing the hospital, insisted that such a clause would be impossibly difficult to oversee and enforce.
The other was an assertion by Dr. Keith Mansel, former chief of staff at the hospital, that Baptist’s current lease requires some $47 million in unspent “excess revenue” to be spent to benefit Oxford and Lafayette County residents’ health before the lease is terminated.
Both Little and Board of Supervisors Attorney David O’Donnell insisted that the $47 million can legitimately be used toward the $60 million that Baptist has offered to pay for the hospital or for the $250 million minimum it has pledged to spend to build a new facility.
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@journalinc.com.