Singing River Health System dominates discussion at legislative forum

Singing River Health System dominates discussion at legislative forum

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - The ongoing controversy at Singing River Health System was the primary topic at Thursday morning's annual legislative breakfast in Jackson County. A hospital board member and the chief financial officer addressed the group of business leaders about the retirement plan troubles. They defended the health care system and took issue with those who've compared the problems at Singing River with the DMR scandal.

"We are not even close to DMR Brice, okay? We are not a DMR," said hospital trustee, Morris Strickland, "And for someone to say we're like DMR is a travesty on our employees and is unfair on our employees. And I've had more employees call me, crying about the fact that we were compared to DMR."

Hospital trustee Morris Strickland reminded the business and community leaders that Singing River is a public hospital.

"Last year we wrote off $42 million in charity. Forty two million in charity. We also wrote off $114 million in bad debt," said the trustee.

"I can't say it enough. People are making a difference in people's lives every day at Singing River. This county needs this hospital," said SRHS Chief Financial Officer Lee Bond.

Singing River's CFO says it's important that ongoing quality care not be forgotten.

"My opinion on a lawsuit? A lot of people have asked me about that. All I can say is a lawsuit does not create cash. Okay?"

And for those who suggest selling the hospital is the way to go.

"Let me tell you about a sale. We're a not for profit. Our goal is to have a zero operating margin. In the past few years it hasn't been there. A lot of tough decisions have been made. Some people have lost their jobs to get to a break even status," said Bond.

"I'll disagree, respectfully disagree with Morris," said Sen. Brice Wiggins, "In this sense, it is like DMR. Because they see what's happened. And what I said back then is what I think applies now. The way we correct this is clean our own house and do it. I do think that is starting to happen."

"What I take issue with is, the DMR was wrought with criminals and people buying boats and stuff. Let me tell ya'. Nobody bought any boats at the hospital. That is an unfair comparison in that regard," said Bond.

The executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources issued a statement following the legislative meeting. Director Jamie Miller said the events that occurred under the previous administration were serious and have been rectified. He also said the situation at Singing River Health System involves different circumstances and should not be compared with what happened with the previous DMR administration.

Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.