OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) –
There’s a new man at the helm of Singing River Health System, even though he’s a familiar face. Lee Bond recently took over as the chief executive officer, after serving as the system’s financial officer for the past few years. He helped oversee a turnaround that brought the system back from the brink of bankruptcy and salvaged a failing pension plan.
While walking the halls of Singing River hospital, Bond stopped to offer words of praise to employees and greet patients. Along the way, he talked to WLOX about the hospital system’s past and what lies ahead in its future.
Taking over after the pension failure was an easy choice to make. “I took it because there are a lot of people who have worked really hard over the past few years and really, I feel deserve for this system to thrive,” he said.
Four years ago, the word thrive wasn’t even on the table after the system wrote more than $80 million dollars in bad debt.
“It was bad,” recalled Bond. “It was the largest accounts receivable adjustment in American healthcare history unfortunately, and probably the largest pension debacle in American healthcare history.”
He added that things have changed a lot since then. “Well today, we’re in a lot better shape than we were three and a half years ago. We had eight days cash on hand then. Now, we have 91. Our quality metrics continue to rise.”
The awards are coming in, but it goes deeper than that, according to Bond. “It’s a testament to the heart and soul and as I said, the grit of the people of Singing River.”
The failed pension battle is still tied up in the courts, but Bond believes in a commitment of $150 million dollars over the next 30 years.
“It’s a horrific travesty, what happened. But as far as the payments that are set before the court right now, there’s no reason to believe that those can’t be made in the future.”
But it’s not all smooth sailing these days in the healthcare industry. Small rural hospitals across the country are closing. That won’t happen at Singing River, said Bond, but the problems persist.
“There is continued downward reimbursement pressures from Medicare, Medicaid, all of the insurance companies. They want to pay doctors less and so it’s a very tough environment,” he explained..
Tough or not, Bond believes in a higher power to help guide the way. “I think that God wants Singing River to succeed and most systems would have filed bankruptcy and failed in a system like this. I go back again to the people. I told people you have to believe in our team and I think they believe that.
And these days, seeing is believing. Between the two hospitals and various clinics, Singing River Health System is the second largest employer in Jackson County, with more than 2,400 employees, physicians, staff and volunteers.
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