OXFORD – Following Lafayette County’s lead, Oxford has hired a lawyer specializing in health care issues to help negotiate with Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation in the Memphis-based group’s bid to buy the current hospital in Oxford.
The Board of Aldermen voted Monday in executive session to contract Howard Bogard, a partner in the Birmingham law firm of Burr Forman, to work with board attorney Pope Mallette on the city’s response. Bogard is the author of two legal guides for health care providers.
Last week Lafayette County supervisors hired Tupelo attorney Dinetia Newman of the Jackson firm of Balch and Bingham to work on the county’s behalf.
Baptist has leased the existing hospital, which is jointly owned by the city and county, since 1989. Each of several expansions has extended the lease, which now goes until 2034.
Baptist has proposed buying out its lease and purchasing the current building for $60 million with plans to build a $300 million regional referral hospital to replace it.
While officials on all sides have acknowledged any such buyout requires innumerable details to be worked out, negotiations had been slowed late last year, and the discovery last month that Baptist had anonymously bought more than 100 acres west of Oxford created consternation among some local officials and residents alike.
Baptist officials maintain that the property is not necessarily the site of choice and that it was purchased, in essence, as a negotiating tool to calm speculative pricing of suitable parcels.
Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal