PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - The plan that paid retirees about 50 percent of their pay for life is gone. It's being replaced with options such as opening a 401K type plan, taking a lump sum payment or joining a pension plan with greatly reduced benefits.
For some, like Keely Horn, it was an emotional day.
"I will have 30 years in March. My plan was to retire, and now that's not going to happen. My life has just changed completely," Horn said while fighting back tears. "I had a plan, and I had a goal."
The only thing certain now is uncertainty for system employee Donnie Davis.
"It changes everything, because nothing is guaranteed. I don't know that kind of money I will have upon retirement, and everyone makes plans on that. You know, at a certain age, I will have this much," Davis explained.
Others are still at a point in their careers where the damage done won't be as great. Put Dorian Blake in that category.
"I've been there 11 years. I have a family. I have plans, but I'm in that middle group where I have options, planning on working still for the next 20 or 30 years," Blake said.
This first of more than 12 town hall meetings for retirees and employees lasted three hours, two of those hours were taken up by questions and answers.
As for the mood of the room, hospital officials put it this way.
"Our employees are upset. They're disappointed. They're frustrated, and in some cases, they're angry and rightfully so," system CEO Kevin Holland said. "This has been a set of circumstances that nobody thought we would have to face."
With the hospital system hanging on the edge of a financial cliff, face it they must.
Singing River Health System also faces other financial challenges. The system is losing about $30 million annually. Earlier this year, it had to write off $88 million in uncollected debt.