INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — While Hospital District and Indian River Medical Center attorneys recently characterized their closed-door negotiations over a fair and responsible way to fund indigent care at the hospital as “cordial and going well,” the public debate between the District and the hospital is anything but.
At last week’s Hospital District meeting, Trustee Burton Lee read a 10-minute speech lambasting the hospital board for 10 specific shortcomings and concluded: “This hospital is being badly run.”
In response, hospital attorney Bill Stewart chastised Lee for airing “a laundry list of negatives. This is not the proper forum,” said Stewart. The District should develop a procedure to resolve the issues Lee raised, he said, rather than putting them out at a public meeting.
Lee’s list of complaints:
- Despite the on-going negotiations between the District and the hospital, it is not up to the hospital to determine what the elected Hospital District trustees – on behalf of the taxpayers – should allot for indigent healthcare. It is up to the trustees.
- Several months ago, while the hospital was publicly touting that its finances were solid because it was debt-free, it was quietly arranging a loan of over $20 million.
- A top-down, external review of business practices and the balance sheet at the hospital was to have been presented in detail to District trustees in exchange for their approval of the Cancer Center. But it was not.
- The hospital uses a “difficult and problematic” computer system that has been “a thorn in the side of almost every physician.”
- The hospital’s “mass, recent hiring of physicians and their boutique practices at salaries that are questionable” has not been discussed with the Hospital District.
- The hospital board chairman said he will not allow “adverse questioning” of the hospital CEO.
- The hospital illegally kicked District representative Paul Nezi off the hospital board.
- The hospital has not satisfactorily explained what its tax forms show about retirement money withdrawals and taxes paid on the early withdrawals.
- The past failure of a vascular surgeon to show up for on-call duty in the Emergency Room raises questions about ER protocols and planning.
- The community gives “heavily on a philanthropic basis to IRMC, and the donors have every right to expect excellent service and care.”
Hospital attorney Stewart told Lee that the tax questions on retirement money withdrawals would soon be resolved, but that another means of communication about what Lee saw as problematic at the hospital “might be better.”
“To display these concerns in this setting is a little unfair,” said Stewart.
“The reason I brought this up today is because this board represents the taxpayers, and if we see irregularities, we have an obligation to the taxpayers to get answers in a public forum,” said Lee.
Hospital District chairman Tom Spackman defended Lee and told Stewart: “Dr. Lee is an elected, public official and has a responsibility to point out issues.”
But Stewart maintained that it was not the time or place to raise those issues or respond to them.