University Deal with Columbia Still Irks Council
Bryant-Friedland, Bruce, The Florida Times Union
City Council members continue to gnash their teeth and wring
their hands over Columbia/HCA's deal with University Medical
Center, egged on by State Sen. Betty Holzendorf, the most
vocal opponent of the deal.
"Basically what they [Columbia/HCA] do is go into a hospital
and shut down those services," Holzendorf told 10 council
members gathered last week for a joint meeting of the finance
and public health and safety committees.
Holzendorf's chief concern is that University, prompted by
Columbia, will curtail its care for the poor and indigent.
In August, Holzendorf filed a suit in Circuit Court, seeking an
injunction that would block the proposed marriage between
University and Columbia.
The deal, signed last winter, puts Columbia in charge of the
day-to-day management of University in return for the lion's
share of any operating surplus the hospital produces. The
agreement is still awaiting Internal Revenue Service approval
The city now pays University $18.5 million annually to provide
Even though the city also owns the hospital, under the terms of
its long-term lease with University, the council has no input
into the daily management of the facility.
Attorneys in the city's general counsel office have advised the
City Council that it has no veto power over the joint operating
agreement with Columbia.
Council president Eric Smith said in an interview that the
council is still assessing the alternatives open to it.
"We need to know what our rights are," Smith said. He expressed
disappointment that neither officials from University or
Columbia attended the meeting.
But officials at University say they were only notified of the
committee meeting a few hours before the session. Columbia's
spokesman said the company heard about the meeting after it took
Holzendorf also told the council that University plans to lay
off an additional 147 employees in December.
University CEO W.A. "Mac" McGriff III , who was reached later,
denied the hospital is planning layoffs.
After posting a $23 million loss at the end of its fiscal year
in July, University eliminated the equivalent of 52 fulltime
positions. In May, University reduced its staff by the
equivalent of 300 full-time positions.
The hospital broke even in October, McGriff said.
Columbia officials met with Holzendorf this fall to explain
their joint operating agreement with University, said Columbia
spokesman Marty Campanello . …