SRHS retirees picket unity meeting - - The News for South Mississippi

SRHS retirees picket unity meeting

SRHS retirees picket at a meeting in Jackson County. (Photo source: WLOX News) SRHS retirees picket at a meeting in Jackson County. (Photo source: WLOX News)

Singing River Health System (SRHS) retirees picketed outside a meeting Monday aimed at mending broken relationships with their former employer. SRHS stopped contributing its portion to their retirement plan several years ago and now it’s underfunded by millions. That decision also caused friction among Jackson County Supervisors, state lawmakers and SRHS officials.

Retirees crowded the sidewalks with picket signs as county leaders, citizens and Singing River executives made their way to a unity meeting in Pascagoula.
“We have to go in there and act stupid and get us into a trap so that they have the retirees on their side. That ain't happening,” said a retiree supporter.

Retiree Ruth Molden, of more than 20 years, said the only conversation she wants to have is getting all the pension money promised her and not just 88 percent that's being proposed by the health system.

“They are not going to talk about the retirement fund. So it is no need for us to go in. We have a representative in there,” said Molden.

Inside, CEO Kevin Holland apologized for the health system's past mistakes and extended an olive branch to the crowd.

“There are always things that we would have done differently in hindsight and we are going to continue moving this organization forward,” Holland said.
Holland then talked about the administration's sweeping turnaround plan to improve the health system's ailing finances.

“We reduced a $35 million operating loss to roughly about $2.6 million through nine months of this year and that is the foundation of our success with respect to solving all of our problems including our pension issue,” Holland said.

SRHS Dr. Randy Roth was the only medical staff member to speak. He touted the state-of-the-art cancer center as well as the national awards the hospital received for patient safety and quality care.

“Anything that disrupts our community's confidence in getting their care here hurts our ability to recruit and retain these great doctors that keep us alive and keep us healthy,” said Dr. Roth.

Supervisor Melton Harris and State Representative Charles Busby agreed and were pleased to see the health system making an effort to rebuild its image.
“Nothing is more important than for Jackson County for us to save the hospital and save it from the standpoint that we can find a way for the retirees for the pension they deserve,” said Busby.

They admit there's still work to be done to get those picketing outside to the round table of harmony.

“We have to find a way we can get that group gelled together. So we can hear their perspective as well. I hope to have another one of these meetings in a few weeks,” said Busby.

Holland also pointed out that the 88 percent pension proposal for retirees is now in the hands of the court.

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