JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Dozens of retirees from Singing River Health System headed back to the courtroom on Tuesday. Most of the talk centered around a settlement plan that is in the works. Under the proposed agreement, the health system would start paying millions of dollars into the fund over the next four decades. A final settlement agreement could be reached in the next 30 days.
In the proposed settlement, Jackson County would make payments to Singing River over a nine-year period. However, those who helped negotiate the deal say if Singing River takes the offer, there are strings attached.
Although the Singing River Health System pension plan is in critical condition, Jackson County leaders said it's against the law for even one penny of the $13.6 million the county is offering SRHS to go retirees.
"The taxpayer dollars are contributions to Singing River Hospital because of their indigent care losses and to prevent a future bond default," said Billy Guice, the attorney representing Jackson County. "So no money is going from the county to the pension plan. Singing River must make its own contributions into the pension plan. We're not allowed to make a contribution there."
If the deal goes forward, Guice said paying Singing River millions in taxpayer money will not lead to a tax increase or cause financial strain for the county.
"The county has been very well managed. They have received a settlement from BP but mostly they have built up a surplus in the management of the county," said Guice."This county is one of the best run counties in the state of Mississippi."
But with Jackson County money also comes some demands. Officials said no county money can go to attorneys fees and SRHS agree to a changes on the board of trustees. The board consists of nine people with two being medical staff and seven being appointed. Each of the five supervisors can make an appointment from his district and there are two at large.
Guice said, "There was an offer of five trustees to resign by the hospital. We've accepted that potential offer so five will resign. We will put new people in who didn't cause the problem and who are capable of managing the hospital."
"That's one aspect of it. The other and this is a requirement to hire a turn around firm," said Guice. "A firm that specializes in putting hospitals back in order, making sure that they make the hard decisions and to create a long term, strategic plan going forward. So we are not looking at at where we are now."
Officials say if the deal falls through, likely the lawsuits will continue. If the settlement is approved, Jackson County would give an immediate payment to Singing River of $2 million then make another $2 million payment in January of 2016.