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Singing River: Trouble for the Hospital Now Includes FBI, State Scrutiny, Investigations

PASCAGOULA, Miss.–Fooling with people’s retirement and not telling them about it has a lot of people mad in Jackson County. Singing River Health systems is now not only in trouble with some of its employees, who have filed class action, federal lawsuits, but now the feds and state are looking into it.

The district attorney’s office, the FBI and the state auditor’s office all have criminal investigations going.

The hospital is $88 million short and stopped contributing to the pension plan in 2009. Future retirees only found out about it in October.

Since then, it’s been stormy for the hospital, which is the county’s second largest employer. There are 2,400 people working there now, with over 600 getting a retirement check. Most future retirees have been told they will get a lump sum instead of their monthly checks they thought they would be getting.

The hospital released this statement Wednesday:

Singing River Health System has been cooperating and will continue to fully cooperate with any and all reviews and investigations by any governmental entity. We are presently doing so with the State Auditor’s Office, the Jackson County Board of Supervisors, and now the District Attorney’s Office. We have been and will continue to be completely open and transparent with all reviews and investigations of this or any nature. We are diligently providing all the information requested by these entities, and will continue to do so. If there is any evidence of wrong doing, we want it brought out and handled as quickly and appropriately as possible. The quality of health care provided by the employees and physicians of Singing River Health System remains unchanged.

The issue has also become a matter for state lawmakers. Sen. Brice Wiggins (R) has filed a bill that targets hospital boards across the state, which would end their exemption from the state’s open meetings laws. It also specifically targets Singing River, ending the term of the Board of Trustees in January 2016.

“To allow the new board of supervisors to come in and appoint new trustees,” said Wiggins.

“They’re the only public entity that is not subject to open meetings and public records and it has, in my opinion, a culture of secrecy.”

He said a similar bill was filed last year, but was fought by the Miss. Hospital Assoc. and did not come out of committee, said Wiggins. He said he believes that it is a state-wide issue.

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