THE ISSUE: Hospital board plans to disband.
OUR OPINION: Get it done; and all funds should flow to foundation.
The good news is that the members of the Citrus County Hospital Board are discussing the day they will no longer exist.
The hospital board was created to navigate the transition of Citrus Memorial Hospital — our community institution — via a lease to HCA, the largest for-profit hospital organization in America. That lease was necessary because internal bickering and market conditions made it financially impossible for CMH to continue as a public hospital.
The current volunteer board has completed most of its work and did a good job of closing up as many of the complicated financial details as possible. Their diligence resulted in securing additional dollars from Medicare, Medicaid and private entities that might have been lost if not aggressively pursued.
We have been critical of some of the steps taken by the gubernatorial appointed board and its attorney. But we agree in principal that the group should be dissolved by 2022.
We still take strong exception to the hospital board’s belief that it needs to retain $8 million in proceeds from the hospital lease to use to hold HCA accountable to the details of the lease. HCA has already pumped tens of millions of dollars into the hospital and has greatly raised the level of service provided to local patients.
The only silver lining to the lease of CMH was that all of the funds were supposed to flow into the newly created Hospital Foundation Board which is then charged with funding nonprofit efforts to improve the health care services in our community. Property tax dollars were used to build CMH more than 50 years ago and the lease of those facilities requires the full proceeds to flow to the foundation. The unmet health care needs in our community are staggering and those dollars are needed.
Once the hospital board sunsets, the responsibility for the lease should flow to county government. At the same time, the full $8 million held in reserves should flow to the foundation. The half-baked scheme to have the county school board be responsible for the hospital lease accountability was appropriately rejected by school officials.
County government, through the county commission, has the board responsibility for public health in our community. They use tax dollars to fund the county health department and deal with mental health issues.
Some members of the hospital board have personal and political differences with current county commissioners so they have fought that natural transition. Good government doesn’t change the natural structure because individuals don’t like each other.
The hospital board needs to disappear within two years. All of the funds in reserve need to flow to the foundation board. And the county commission needs to assume the responsibility for partnering with HCA to oversee the lease on the hospital.
Then, and only then, can this sad era of our county hospital’s demise be put behind us.