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
The Sun-Herald placed blame where it belonged -on the Jackson County Board of Supervisors in a December 20, 2014 editorial. The newspaper charged:
Efforts by members of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors to protect their political futures in the wake of the Singing River Hospital System debacle would be laughable if the consequences of their failure to act responsibly were not so devastating to the thousands of families whose futures may be irreparably compromised.
The supervisors have engaged in a pitiful "public relations" campaign that seems devised to show they are earnestly concerned about the plight of the SRHS retirees and other employees who depend on the SRHS pension fund, which appears to be slipping away. There is much wringing of hands and constant assurances given to those affected that "this is a situation that we all hate to be in" and that they "are committed to the hospital employees and we are committed to the retirees and our goal is to find the answers to protect the Jackson County hospital system and to make sure we have good quality health care, a great place for the employees to work and the best possible solution for this situation for the active employees and the retirees."
Seriously? That is just gibberish and it reassures no one....
What is now plain to see is the supervisors are at the center of this mess.
It was the supervisors who appointed the members of the SRHS Board of Trustees. Those trustees were responsible for overseeing the county-owned health care system, but the supervisors were responsible for overseeing the trustees.
It was the supervisors who, year in and year out, received reports from SRHS administrators about the system's status and finances. Now it is apparent the supervisors did little more than nod their approval of the information they were given. Otherwise, how could the supervisors claim to be as shocked as nearly everyone else in Jackson County that SRHS had reported $88 million in uncollectible debt as an asset but was losing tens of millions of dollars a year?
It was the supervisors who agreed to make the taxpayers of Jackson County liable for bonded indebtedness if SRHS should default. That debt now hovers around $100 million, and the possibility of default looms larger with each passing day.
And it is the supervisors who must bear the ultimate responsibility for the past, present and future of SRHS. There simply is no one else they can pass this buck to. It stops with the board.
The most solid step the supervisors have taken is to get SRHS officials to share their financial data with them. Just how this material will differ from the information the supervisors have been provided by SRHS over the years is unknown.
But it does provide an opportunity for the Board of Supervisors to provide the public with some of that promised transparency.
In the beginning, the impact of the health system's misguided handling of its employees' and retirees' pension plan seemed to be limited to those most closely associated with Jackson County's second-largest employer.
But now, with every tax-paying property owner in Jackson County on the hook for a share of SRHS' $100 million debt, the consequences could hardly be more far-reaching. Editorial
Earlier posts on Singing River:
Singing River Saga Dec. 15: Supes make deal to see own records.
Singing River Saga Dec. 12: The court fights begin.
Singing River Saga Dec. 8: "Who knew what when" is the question.
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?