GEORGE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A temporary restraining order preventing Singing River Health System officials from terminating the beleaguered retirement plan remains in place following a hearing Monday. That plan is $140 million in the red, and on the verge of insolvency.
Chancery Court Judge Jaye Bradley kept the order in place at a hearing held in George County. She then recused herself and was replaced by Judge Neil Harris. A second hearing was held Monday afternoon, and Harris agreed that the temporary order should remain in effect until another hearing is held Friday in Pascagoula. At that time, Harris will decide if the order should be made permanent.
The legal proceedings took place in a courtroom packed with dozens of anxious health system retirees. They listened intently, with eyes glued on the judge and attorneys for the health system and a system retiree. Even though the restraining order remains in place, at least for now, the retirees still have a fear of one thing.
"Losing everything I have," Louverta Cherry explained. "A lump sum of money will not help us. We need a check every month, because Social Security just goes so far."
For some retirees, like Ralph Drury, something else besides money has been lost at the health system.
"It used to be a family. You used to go down the halls and speak to everybody and everybody would speak to you. It's not that way anymore," Drury recalled.
"Very much betrayed," Cherry lamented. "We didn't have any recognition of anything. We never knew anything about all this."
During the month long controversy over the future of the retirement system plan, the retirees have displayed a lot of emotions, fear, and trepidation. Now, some of those emotions are turning to anger.
"I am glad for that TRO. That gives us a chance to get a permanent injunction against them. That way they can't sell Singing River Hospital, they can't take our retirement, and they are going to have to pay for it," Jean Manning said.
Perhaps there's only one way to describe the way these retirees feel.
"It's a sad situation, and somebody blundered along the way," Drury said.
The next hearing has been scheduled for 9am Friday morning. Attorneys for the health system left the courthouse before we could reach out to them for comment. Hospital officials did release a written statement though, which said in part, "The judge, we believe, properly continued the hearing, and when a date is set, we will present our case. Regrettably, this has caused us to postpone our town hall meetings with retirees and other former employees."