Rankin County supervisors have agreed to sell 90-bed Rankin Medical Center in Brandon, Miss., and officials expect to begin soliciting bids in January.
Also to be sold is the financially ailing fitness center in which the hospital bought an interest and later assumed financial control.
While officials have reached an informal agreement, the seven-member board has not officially voted on the plan.
"The hospital's done a marvelous job over the years and has served its purpose," Supervisor Jack Dennis said. "But Rankin County is no longer a rural county. It is time for the county to get out of the hospital business."
The informal decision by supervisors came five months after state Auditor Steve Patterson recommended the hospital be sold. Dennis said supervisors would start having the hospital appraised in May.
Ralph Martin, chairman of the Rankin Medical Center board of trustees, said the board opposes the sale for several reasons, including concerns indigent patients might no longer be cared for because the new owners will be profit-driven.
Martin said the hospital is now in a financial position to compete in the growing field of outpatient medicine with its 97,000-square-foot expansion.
The financially ailing Fitness Plus, a private fitness club in which the hospital now has a controlling interest, can be turned around, he said.
Dennis said giving up the hospital would potentially allow private investors to expand services. He said the county also would reap tax benefits from a privately owned hospital.
Rankin Medical Center has a $17 million bond debt, and is subsidized $1.4 million a year by the county.