Note: The problems at Singing River Health System (Jackson County) continue to mount. The Sun-Herald has been breaking stories about the troubled hospital system since November. It is important to start from the beginning, so JJ is posting stories about this fiasco starting from several weeks ago, to give readers the history of this story.
Paul Hampton raised questions in the Sun-Herald on December 8 about the information about the Singing River Health System finances that was given to its Board of Trustees. Mr. Hampton reported:
Two boards have at least some control over the Singing River Health System, but none of them say they saw the financial problems coming.
Individual Jackson County supervisors appoint one member each to the nine-member SRHS Board of Trustees and the entire Board of Supervisors appoints two at-large members, one from the east side of the county and one from the west. The hospital chief of staff and chief of staff-elect also sit on the SRHS board.
But the supervisors said they only get infrequent reports from the hospital board, which by law is responsible for "operating and governing" the hospital. Reporters are barred from meetings by an exemption to the Open Meetings Act.
In March, officials announced the system was carrying $88 million in uncollectable debt and calling it operating income. Then, the system announced it had quit funding the pension plan in 2009, that it is now failing and would have to be revamped....
SRHS board President Michael Heidelberg said the board had monthly meetings where the CEO reports on the operations of the system but weren't told of problems.
"Basically, he is in charge of the running of the hospital," he said. "We in turn are in charge of overseeing that administration."
He said the trustees are willing to answer questions anytime the supervisors have them.
"In fact I'm in the Rotary with (Mike) Magnum and one of the other supervisors and anytime they have a question and they see me at the Rotary club, they'll walk up and ask me about it," he said. "But as far as making a monthly or yearly report, we have our financials sent to them ... we don't make a personal report from our board to their board."
Heidelberg said he didn't know there was any problem with the retirement plan until about a 1 1/2 months ago when (SRHS CEO) Kevin Holland asked me to attend one of those meetings....
(Supervisor) Melton Harris appointed Ira Polk, a former Moss Point mayor, who Harris said saw nothing wrong with the hospital.
"My conversation with him after all this began to break was they were somewhat mislead, they were being fed false information," Harris said. "They were acting on information that was not complete."
Harris said it is unknown if this was intentional. "We are going back and trying to review and find something that will lead us in one direction or the other," he said.
Board of Supervisors President Troy Ross hopes Raymond James, a firm with expertise in strategic planning for hospitals, can help them find a way out of the mess.
And, Ross said, supervisors are talking to hospital trustees a whole lot more since news of financial problems surfaced.
"Until that day," he said, "the numbers provided in the audit showed revenue."
He said there was no reason for Lawrence Cosper, the business owner Ross appointed to the hospital board, to raise red flags for supervisors.
"My impression is they received the same audits we received," he said. "I would think those trustees had the same numbers I had and saw and they were given the impression that they were healthy as well. Now where the numbers got crossed and who caused it, that's what we need to find out.
"We have a CPA on that board (vice president Michael Tolleson) and the former CEO (Chris Anderson) was a CPA. I would have thought someone there would have figured out how these numbers, they should have been adjusted."
He said other CPAs have told him that short of a full forensic audit of the system, there would be no way to know the numbers were off.
Their goal, he said, is to find if "someone did it for a purpose or was someone just not doing their job properly.".... Rest of article. There is more to read.
Earlier Singing River posts:
Cartoon on Singing River
Singing River Saga, December 5: Judge freezes pension liquidation.
Adding more pieces to the Singing River puzzle
Singing River on December 3: Liquidate Pension Plan
Singing River Pension Disaster: No excuses
Singing River audit
Singing River: 23 days cash on hand, Supes want to question MBMC CEO
What the hell was going on at Singing River?