MIAMI – The monetary woes of the Jackson Health System are nothing new to the ears of Miami residents. The health system, which is comprised of six different hospitals and centers, was exposed as being in financial disarray by the Miami-Dade Grand Jury in August. The juror’s warned that the county’s public hospital was badly governed by Public Health Trust and subject to political interference from the county.
The county had to get involved in the public hospital’s mess after reports of its financial hole came to light. Among some of the problems the public hospital faces are patients who are uninsured and unable to pay for services, undocumented immigrants, and very expensive technology. Jackson is also seeing a drop in patient admittance; meanwhile those who are admitted are often uninsured and very sick.
Officials responded to the county’s Grand Jury by citing that it was necessary and admirable of the county to get involved. County Manager George Burgess went as far as to criticize Jackson’s staff and Trust members for covering up the many problems that were plaguing the hospital. However, he also seemed to downplay the county’s inability to grasp the public hospital’s many complexities. Burgess strongly objected to the Grand Jury’s attacks on the way the county runs the hospital, arguing that the juror’s were making statements that were not supported by the facts.
To the county’s credit, they are working on sorting out the hospital’s bills. However, many feel that the county should restructure its governance over the hospital, a measure that is moving at a snail’s pace. Last week, leaders of a 41-member group of civic and business people who monitor the hospital’s situation urged the county commission to revamp the way the hospital is governed. These leaders noted that 90 percent of public hospitals have been restructured in a way that their governance would not be influenced by political pressure.
One proposition would convert the Jackson Health System into a not-for-profit institution that contracts with the county to deliver healthcare. The contract would put in writing what each side expects from the other. Some claim that this would eliminate some of the potential for political influence. Furthermore, as a non-profit Jackson could operate independent of the hospital unions; this would be a huge cost saving measure.
The Grand Jury also urged the county commissioners to fill five spots of the Public Health Trust, the hospital’s governing body. The selection of members begins on Tuesday September 7 when the Public Health Trust Nomination Council meets in the Miami-Dade Commission chambers. A total of 71 people have submitted applications to be on the Trust.
No matter what the outcome of this mess one thing remains certain: Jackson needs help. How they are going to get that help is still up in the air; however, from what Miami residents have seen, overinflated bureaucracy is incapable of running a health care system. If the county and the hospital do not make clear outlines and shape up, the ones who will be suffering most at the end of the day are the many patients who need medical care and have nowhere else to go.
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