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by Dr. Randy Roth, Singing River Health System

Over the past few years, I have been able to witness the strength of our community through various challenges.

As the COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented strains to local health care, the people in our area remained resilient and supportive. Over the same time, Singing River Health System has grown into a stronger and more capable provider. We are caring for patients in new ways, and new specialties, even as we face issues that challenge our mission to provide equal access to care at a minimal cost. Some of these challenges are new; some we have been facing for years.

Despite emerging obstacles, from the increased cost of quality health care to staffing shortages and legacy issues such as the high rate of uninsured patients, Singing River remains a leading health care provider in Jackson County and along the Gulf Coast. All three of our hospitals are A-rated for safety and quality. Moreover, as the second-largest employer in Jackson County, we are an integral part of the local economy. To us, that makes keeping care local a critical priority.

Over the past two to three years, our focus on providing high-quality, safe care has helped us bring life-saving innovation and new specialties to our local community. Previously, if a resident was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she would have to commute across state lines to the closest GYN oncologist, leaving her family, job and home for days on end. Today, full-spectrum GYN Oncology, from surgical treatment to postoperative chemotherapy, is just one of the new specialties performed locally at Singing River. Other examples include our new cardiovascular program, advanced robotic-assisted lung procedures to fight early-stage lung cancer, improvements in colorectal surgery, preventative care and more.

These new services have signaled the next era for Singing River Health System and the people we serve. They represent an opportunity to look further down the road at the long-term health and well-being of our community. That is why we have decided to pursue integration with a health care organization that shares our mission and values.

This decision is not reactive or spur-of-the-moment. We have been discussing this potential opportunity for years. A partner that shares our values could help us ensure the success of our health system for generations to come. It’s no secret that we face serious headwinds, the increased cost of staffing, equipment and technology impact our profitability and diminish our ability to invest and grow our system of care. A strategic partnership would give us the capital resources to invest in infrastructure, equipment, technology, maintenance and staff to continue the positive growth we have forged over the past several years.

Most importantly, however, is partnering with an organization that shares our vision to expand access to care. Singing River is truly one-of-a-kind in our care philosophy. We are treating patients, regardless of their ability to pay, in a state with the second-worst overall health ranking in the U.S. That is truly a testament to our hard-working staff of health care providers and professionals and their commitment to our mission and our community. A good fit with any partner is contingent on a guaranteed continuance of this community focus and patient-first care.

With that in mind, if full integration with a partner occurs, it will preserve and strengthen the health of our community now and in the future. Looking ahead, I am excited about the possibilities of local health care right here at home. We serve an incredible patient population at Singing River, and we remain steadfast in our mission to expand access to care for years to come.