Mantachie Clinic restructures after dismissals

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

Mantachie Clinic is in the process of healing after losing both its chief executive officer and head physician.

In August, Mantachie Rural Health Care’s Board of Directors — which oversees the main clinic and the company’s dental office — voted to terminate CEO Missy Sheffield and physician, Dr. Stephen K. Beeman – a decision Mike Horton, board chairman, said the company had to make.

It was either that or risk running aground, he said.

“We had to make some major changes or else this clinic would have been in trouble financially,” Horton said of the decision. As chair, Horton did not cast a vote on either decision, but backed the choices made by the board.

Mantachie Rural Health Care Chief Financial Officer Patsy Collins, who has been with the company since 2005, stepped into the role of acting CEO for the foreseeable future. Beeman’s role — a full-time position — has not been filled as such. Instead, the clinic operates with two full-time nurse practitioners and a part-time preceptor, Dr. John Adams.

At the time of the decision, the board consisted of 11 directors, three have since resigned for reasons unrelated to the Sheffield and Beeman terminations. The decision to terminate Sheffield was approved by a 9-1 vote with one director absent for the meeting. The decision to terminate Beeman was unanimous.

Although rumors surrounding Beeman and Sheffield’s departures began circulating immediately after the vote — unofficial talk that involved both slow service and financial collapse — Horton said the board of directors was reluctant to discuss specifics until the dust had settled.

The decisions, Horton said last week, were purely financial: The board wanted to cut the clinic’s payroll cost and those two employees were the highest paid staff members.

Although he didn’t go into the specifics of the clinic’s finances, Horton did say Beeman’s salary was one of the clinic’s biggest single expenses — approximately $120,000 annually. The board says it believed cutting that expense was the best way to stay afloat.

“That was the only way the board saw to solve the problem,” he said. “The clinic simply was not able to sustain [Dr. Beeman’s] salary.”

Sheffield’s salary was $70,000, he added.

Horton asserted that neither employee was terminated due to performance issues, but he did say that the board of directors “didn’t agree with the direction the clinic was heading.”

He said, if asked, the board would write recommendations for either employee.

Mantachie Rural Health Care’s clinic and dental office are federally and state funded. Both offer sliding-scale fees, which are based on a patient’s income. The clinic sees more than 500 patients a month, approximately 42 percent of whom pay a sliding-scale fee for services.

According to Collins, there is a lot of room for growth at both the clinic and dental office. Both are in the process of expanding, she said — the clinic recently began offering X-rays, and the dental office is already needing to add more patient rooms.

“I think community health care clinics are the best kept secret in the nation,” Collins said, adding that their patient base comes from all across the area, not just Mantachie.

Horton reinforced her statement, adding that if the clinic were to buckle financially, it could be disastrous, not just for the patients who utilize it, but the town as a whole.

“This clinic is a lot bigger than two people,” Horton said. “We serve all of Northeast Mississippi.”

He said the clinic represents hundreds of people coming to the town of Mantachie every year. Those people spend money in Mantachie businesses, providing the town with the sales tax on which it operates.

“People don’t realize the draw this clinic has for the town of Mantachie,” Horton said.

As the clinic moves forward under new direction, he said he believes the company is poised to become healthier than ever before.

adam.armour@journalinc.com