Governor DeSantis Vetoes Hospital District Conversion Bill

Govt. Ron DeSantis Friday vetoed a bill that would have established a process for independent hospital districts to convert to private, nonprofit entities.

Lee Memorial Health Systems, based in Fort Myers, was the driving force behind SB 1260which was sponsored by Sarasota Republican Sen. Joe Gruter.

DeSantis noted in a veto letter to the Secretary of State Byrd cord that he supported changes to hospital districts that were passed in local bills.

“CS/SB 1260 intends to resolve an independent hospital district priority through broad statewide policy changes rather than the local billing process,” DeSantis wrote in a statement. June 24 letter.

“Florida’s public hospitals serve our medically indigent people and support the state’s share of our low-income pool. Under these circumstances, every policy change to the governance structure of our independent hospital districts must be reviewed on a district-by-district basis.

While the bill was eventually passed unanimously by the Legislative Assembly, it had its detractors. For example, the senator. Janet Cruza Tampa Democrat, pressed Gruters in February before a Senate Community Affairs Committee on why the legislation was needed.

“Sometimes they want to do something other than what’s in their existing charter, like, say, expand beyond their geographic footprint,” Gruters told Cruz. “I think it all depends on the competitive market we find ourselves in.”

Sen. Gary Farmer also expressed concerns during the Senate meeting, noting that Broward County has two hospital districts: South Broward Hospital District and North Broward Hospital District, which operate as Memorial Healthcare System and Broward Health, respectively. . Farmer said he wasn’t sure there were enough guardrails around the conversion process.

The bill would have established a process for all hospital districts interested in converting to a not-for-profit system to follow. A public hospital district would have been allowed to assess the benefits of conversion at public meetings if a majority of its board, plus one, agreed it was a promising idea.

If, at the end of the process, the governing body believed that the conversion was in the interest of the residents of the district, the bill authorized the hospital board to enter into negotiations with the boards of directors of the county or counties in which it performs to negotiate the disposition of the assets and liabilities of the system.

Florida AFL-CIO Director of Politics and Public Policy Rich Templin told members of the Senate Community Affairs Committee that the union had begun to hear from nurses who were concerned that following a conversion, less profitable health services would be eliminated.

“Just recently, our nurses really got a sense of what Bill was doing, and they have a lot of concerns about it,” Templin said.

But Michel Nachefvice president of government relations for Lee Health, said that would not be the case because the bill contained an “enforceable commitment” for health services to continue after a conversion.

Additionally, Nachef told the Senate panel that the bill simply authorizes a conversion and sets up a process to follow.

“It allows those councils and those local communities to make a decision,” he said.

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