Attorney Harvey Barton said “Merry Christmas. How would you like to have your entire life on the line and be told this right before Christmas?” Barton is referencing his 200 clients, dozens of which pleaded with Jackson County supervisors not to make the decision to hand over $13.6 million to Singing River Health System. This is money that Barton believes isn’t just going towards keeping the hospital from default on millions of dollars in bonds like the county claims but instead going towards hospital attorneys. “The hospital is broke. The hospital doesn’t have any money so where is this $6.4 million that’s going to the plaintiff’s attorney that represents 18 people. Where’s that money coming from if it’s not from the county,” said Barton.
Audits for years 2012 through 2014 show the hospital facing losses and making zero profit. That’s the reason Barton has no trust in the hospital to pay retirees their money. It’s also the reason supervisors agreed to contribute $13.6 million over the span of 10 years. District 3 Supervisor Mike Mangum said, “We need the hospital to be financially stable. One, for the citizens of Jackson County, to provide quality healthcare in the county but to also make sure that they’re financially stable to the point that they can contribute to the pension plan and provide the employees with what they promised to provide them with.”
Mangum, who was serving his final meeting, was the only “no” vote. Not because he disagreed with the essence of the contribution but instead he wanted the turnaround team in place to advise the county before putting money into Singing River Health System.
Supervisors also agreed on items to replace at the Singing River Board of Trustees and hire a turnaround firm for the hospital. Both items will have to be approved by the Singing River Health System in a meeting scheduled for tomorrow.