Jackson County

SRHS trustees invited patients and retirees to their meeting. People had a lot to say.

People speak out to SRHS Board of Trustees

It was a packed house for the board's first public comment forum.
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It was a packed house for the board's first public comment forum.

The Board of Trustees bit the bullet and opened its meeting to any patient or retiree who had something to say about the county-owned Singing River Health System.

The biggest issues addressed were the way patients of ousted neurologist Dr. Terry Millette were treated last year, the need for a viable solution for the failed employee pension — in court for more than three years — and how the system should go about replacing CEO Kevin Holland.

Those who spoke urged the board to go outside the hospital system to replace Holland.

Former employee and RN Karla Phelps told the board that she had migraines for 20 years before Millette used botox injections to manage them without pain medicine. She said because of the board decisions, Millette has had difficulty getting the certifications he needs to resume her treatment. In the meantime, SRHS doctors have tried different treatments, given up and eventually released her as a patient to try and find help elsewhere.

Others offered complaints about the way the system handled their cases.

The relatively new board, appointed by the Jackson County Board of Supervisors, is not the same board that made some of the decisions that were garnering complaints.

And the board received praise for the history-making decision to open its meeting to the public.

Historically, the board that runs the hospital system was closed to the media and the public. But the failed pension spurred people in Jackson County to urge the Legislature to change the law.

Trustee James Epting — along with fellow trustees Randall Doyle, Auwilda Polk, Jeffery Belk, Don Baron and Steven Ates — listened intently.

Epting said, “I thought it went well. I think we heard some things we probably haven’t heard before. I took a lot of notes to look into problems that were brought out.

“We see where we’ve got problems and how to correct them,” Epting said. “That’s all we can do.”

SRHS Spokeswoman Georgia Storey reminded the media that hundreds of Millette’s patients were handled by the hospital system without complaint and that the hospital received more than 100 notes of praise in just the last few days from patients who have stayed in the county’s Singing River Hospital and Ocean Springs Hospital.

The board plans to hold quarterly community forums.

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