Hospital sale in Oxford clears hurdle

OXFORD – After two years of negotiation, Oxford officials reached a “major milestone” on their way to an agreement to sell the hospital it owns jointly with Lafayette County and to have a superior facility built to replace it.
Aldermen voted 4-1 to approve a memorandum of understanding that establishes a host of conditions for the sale of the hospital to Memphis-based Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation. Under its terms, the city and county would split a $60 million purchase price, and Baptist would build a new $250 million regional referral center.
City and county officials recently tried to revisit the purchase price, but the company that provided the original valuation declined to do a second one. There was little sentiment among aldermen to push the issue further.
“We’ve gotten four opinions from professionals about whether the city was getting a good deal out of this,” said Ward 3 Alderman Janice Antonow.
Mayor George “Pat” Patterson voiced the fatigue that many feel.
“I’ve never been in a deal in my life that we’ve worked so hard on,” he said. “At some point, somebody has to trust somebody. Every line of this has been negotiated ad nauseum.”
Lafayette County supervisors may yet have unanswered concerns, said Board President Lloyd Oliphant. He added, however, that the board will likely visit the issue again at a recessed meeting on May 25.
Hospital Administrator Don Hutson was gratified with the city’s action.
“This is a major milestone for the community, and Baptist is very excited to continue its partnership with the city leadership to enhance healthcare in this community for generations to come,” he said. “We remain open to answer any questions that the county leadership may have. This is a three-way partnership, and we’re very respectful of the aldermen and the supervisors.”

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal