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Secrecy surrounds Singing River Health System's financial woes

 A sign for Singing River Health System.
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD A sign for Singing River Health System. SUN HERALD

State law allows the Board of Trustees to meet in secret and to withhold most of its records from the public, even though the county owns Singing River's two hospitals.

With much fanfare, the Jackson County Board of Supervisors announced an "examination" of the health system's records.

Great! The Board of Supervisors is a public body, so the public can review these records too, right?

Uh, no.

The supervisors and Singing River have an agreement that says any records Singing River turns over will be kept confidential. What's more, every detailed discussion the supervisors have about Singing River is held behind closed doors.

The Sun Herald gave Singing River a list of companies, asking for any contracts with those companies. After three weeks, Singing River said it wouldn't be sharing any of the contracts, if they exist.

Trust us to let you know what happened, the supervisors are saying. We're doing everything we can to fix this, Singing River executives are saying.

Thanks, but no thanks. We want the records. We're adults. We can decide for ourselves what happened.

We're not asking for confidential medical records. We realize HIPAA applies.

To Singing River employees, current and former: If you happen to have any records that might shed light on why Singing River's finances are so dire that the employee pension plan failed, please share.

We promise to put the records to good use and, what's more, put them online for the public.

Rest assured, Mississippi's bottom-of-the-rung status in this country has everything to do with our political leaders' penchant for secrecy. It needs to stop.