Singing River Health System's CEO Kevin Holland announced in a letter to employees and retirees the pension plan is frozen. The letter went out just a few weeks after word spread the hospital has not made any contributions to the pension plan since 2009 even though employees thought the company was.
There are 2,300 enrolled in the benefit pension plan, 600 of those are retirees. One of those retirees is Patsy Kelly. "I live paycheck to paycheck barely making it," Kelly said, "I had a waterline burst last month, found termites this week, what's going to happen."
Kelly worked as a nurse at Singing River Health System for 32 years. After paying into the pension plan for more than three decades she relies on that retirement money to make ends meet. Now all of a sudden the pension is frozen and she's terrified.
"I will have to declare bankruptcy," Kelly said, "I could lose everything."
Every December, Kelly receives a cost of living adjustment check as part of her retirement from Singing River Health System, She fears she may never see that money either.
"One year it was $3,000 another it was $300 especially on cost of living, so I never know what it's going to be," Kelly said, "But, I always pray it's going to be enough to cover my flood insurance."
With so much on the line for Kelly, she says the stress has caused her back to go out. She has been in bed for days and wants answers.
Disgusted, she read the first line of the letter she received, "As you have no doubt heard already our health system (like many other organizations) is facing unprecedented financial challenges," Kelly looked up, "Like many other organizations that doesn't help me any, that's insulting."
Kelly said the letter does not give her any comfort and comes too late, she has already learned everything the letter said by watching the news.
"It's as if I was breaking up with, God help me, a boyfriend, I wouldn't tell a friend to tell him," Kelly said, "you make someone feel valued by personal interaction and this is not personal interaction."
After our story aired Wednesday evening, Kelly says she was contacted by SRHS officials. She said they told her she will continue to receive the cost of living adjustment checks she normally gets. They also told her checks will continue as normal for all retirees until the pension fund is liquidated.
Singing River Health System's Richard Lucas said employees enrolled in the benefit pension plan are invited to a series of town hall meetings that begin Thursday, He said administrators will use those meetings to explain a wealth of information and also be able to answer questions. Town hall meetings for retirees town hall meetings are December 9 and 11.