Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula on Wednesday, June 1, 2022. Credit: Hannah Ruhoff / Biloxi Sun Herald

Jackson County’s Board of Supervisors announced Monday it chose Louisiana Catholic nonprofit Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System to purchase the Gulf Coast’s Singing River Health System. 

The decision comes after an extensive proposal period in which potential buyers put in bids for the Mississippi hospital system. Singing River CEO Tiffany Murdock announced last year the 700-bed hospital system was seeking a buyer to put it on firmer footing for the future.

 “This is an exciting day for Singing River Health System,” Murdock said in a statement. “Our future with the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System ensures that Singing River will be able to meet the needs of our employees, patients and community members for years to come. Together, we will build on the strong foundation Singing River has established since we first originated as Jackson County Hospital in 1931.”

While hospitals across Mississippi came out of the pandemic in the red, Singing River’s finances were in decent shape, and it even grew its revenue in 2021. Murdock said she was pushing for a buyer while the system was an appealing investment, fearing the challenges in years to come.

Tiffany Murdock, CEO of Singing River Health System, speaks during a public hearing over the potential sale of Singing River Health System during a Jackson County Board of Supervisors meeting in Pascagoula on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022. Credit: Hannah Ruhoff / Biloxi Sun Herald

“We’re coming at it now at a place of strength,” Murdock told a community group in the town of Hurley in August 2022. “And in five years, I can’t promise you the same thing.”

Hospitals have been facing increasing costs from labor to supplies. Rural Mississippi hospitals have been struggling to stay afloat. Singing River hopes that by teaming up with a larger system, they’ll be able to better trim costs because of the scale at which purchases are made. 

While not in danger of shuttering its doors like other hospitals in the state, Singing River hasn’t been without its own challenges since seeking a buyer. Its Gulfport hospital recently suspended its labor and delivery services because of a physician staffing shortage.

The system says it wants to reopen obstetric care but it’s unclear when that will happen. Its last day of service is April 1.

In its announcements about acquisition, Singing River said the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System is committed to “keeping care local, investing in our community and investing in our people.” 

“We are excited about the possibilities for healthcare in our region and believe the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System is the right choice,” Jackson Board of Supervisors President Ken Taylor said in a statement. “Fundamentally, they share our community values and have a mission to provide equal access to healthcare for all.”

The Catholic system already operates St. Dominic Memorial Hospital in Jackson and nine facilities throughout Louisiana. Its headquarters are in Baton Rouge.

Singing River has hospitals in Gulfport, Ocean Springs and Pascagoula and several walk-in clinics and other medical facilities across the Coast.

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