by John Hey, M.D.

I have had people from as far away as Jackson ask me, what is happening to our hospital in Greenwood?

Word has gotten around: we are going into the hole financially almost every month, doctors are being fired, and the state auditor gave us a “poor” rating on our financial stability.

But no one seems to get to the root of the problem, which is poor administration, and errors made by the hospital board.

Two years ago at its annual meeting, the American College of Healthcare Executives held seminars on the topic of dealing with hospital problems. Greenwood Leflore Hospital was chosen as an example of a medium-sized hospital that is failing and would soon close. The experts there concluded that the cause of this was bad leadership, on top of a primitive, non-functional electronic records system.

Recently our hospital board brought in a speaker from the Mississippi Hospital Association, who said that the little country hospitals could not make it, in part because the state didn’t expand Medicaid.

This is just not true. For one thing, any expansion of Medicaid would be poured into the CAN/Medicaid managed care program, which most local private doctors refuse to accept, due to impossible bureaucratic hoops that have been erected to block the payment of valid claims. The pay scale for claims that are paid is miserable, so that the providers lose money treating patients on the CAN/Medicaid program.

Besides, in our area, several smaller hospitals are doing well, e.g., Cleveland, Indianola, Ruleville, Charleston, and Winona. The difference is that they have good leadership, and don’t depend on Medicaid or no-pay patients, but rather seek out paying patients with good insurance.

Furthermore, we are not a “small country hospital” – GLH is a regional hospital. We are the second largest in the Delta, have the most specialists in the Delta, have the only neurosurgeons in a hundred miles, and have several world-class specialists. We are a 206 bed hospital. In short, we are not a “small country hospital.”

DRMC in Greenville is a larger hospital, but can’t get specialists who want to live there. DRMC has offered to hire away any of our specialists, along with any staff they want to bring along, all for a premium price.

In order to grow, you must be in an area with good paying patients, and we do have them. Greenwood is the best town in the Delta, and it is only ten miles from the hills.

Our restaurants can’t be beaten! We have several large, national companies in Greenwood, but some of them have had to start their own clinics, to avoid the hospital hassle.

Golden Age Nursing Home is the fourth largest nursing home in the state, and is prospering very well. It has a great administrator, assistant administrator, nurses and staff. There is little turnover in staffing at GANH. The fourteen member board is composed of movers and shakers from our community, and unlike the hospital board members, they don’t get paid anything for all the meetings they attend.

Imagine that – a successful, non-profit medical operation in Greenwood run by an A-1 board of unpaid volunteers!

Greenwood is a nice, productive town, and folks used to drive a hundred miles to get what our hospital had to offer. But now we have a hospital board that thinks our losses are due to expensive doctors. Some of them seem to believe that a prime reason for a hospital is to serve as a “jobs fair” for their friends who can’t be fired. And when we had administrators who saw the need to fire the dead wood, the board fired them instead!

The hospital board is focusing on firing good doctors and losing more and more great nurses due to poor management.

Both Baptist and UMMC offered to come in and make us a successful regional system. The board rejected them without explanation. Later, it was said the GLH board members didn’t want UMMC telling them what to do. Their thinking is, that “we’re in charge” and “it’s our turn now.”

When a citizens group asked to speak to the board and sought answers to their questions, they were locked out of the room, without any answers! Later, certain board members complained that the citizens looked like a lynch mob, wearing white hoods!

Meanwhile, Grenada UMMC is recruiting our specialists and moving forward with plans to become the regional hospital. GLH has no marketing plan. Other providers will move in to fill the vacuum the GLH board is creating. We already have a private urgent care clinic, and I’m sure other hospitals will soon be opening their own services here also.

So all is not lost — just the Greenwood Leflore Hospital. So sad.