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Not all public hospitals operate behind closed doors, but none should

Politicians are all about transparency. They love to talk about it, love to wrap themselves in the trappings of it and promise to do all they can to ensure that we have more of it.

Until it comes time to vote. Then, ah, not so much.

Such is it with Senate Bill 2407, legislation that would have required the boards of public hospitals to be covered by the state's open meetings and open records laws. The bill has been championed by the Mississippi Press Association and it sailed through the Senate with nary a discouraging word or vote against it, only to end up in a House committee where the special interest lobbyists, particularly those on the payroll of the state's Hospital Association, went to work on it and the committee members.

So much for transparency.

To say that the bill was gutted is to linguistically assault that which is done to fish.

What was a bill to shed light on the doings of all the state's 46 public hospitals, now applies to a single one, the Singing River Health Systems facility in Jackson County, whose pension scandal was but one of several instances of gross mismanagement at public hospitals across the state, which inspired the legislation in the first place.

And the key word, folks, is “public.” Public hospitals  are  owned not by corporations with boards of directors and stockholders, they are by you, the taxpayers. The public's tax dollars help to fund them and the public is on the hook when mismanagement send their finances south.

That's not a worry with our local hospital, which is well managed and which extends an open invitation to this newspaper to attend its meetings—the true test of transparency. But neither is that the point.

This bill, as originally written, is needed to protect all the taxpayers who support all the other public hospitals in Mississippi. And there are efforts underway to attempt to restore that original language and to hopefully advance and pass the bill as it was envisioned.

But what has happened here is both wrong and all too typical of what happens all too often to all too much that matters in a contemporary political system where the carrots extended and the sticks waved by special interests and their hired  guns trump the promises of the politicians they might as well own.

 

– Deer Creek Pilot, Rolling Fork, March 9, 2015

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