Thursday, July 18, 2024

What the Hospital Deal Means, Haynie Updates and More Boca News

Boca Raton Regional Hospital announced last week that it has chosen Baptist Health South Florida as its partner in a deal designed to position the facility for the next generation of health care.

The deal isn’t done. As Boca Regional CEO Jerry Fedele said during an interview Friday, however, there is a “very, very high likelihood” that it will happen. Over the next 60 days, Boca Regional and Baptist Health will draft a letter of intent. Fedele then expects that the deal will close by the end of the year.

Nobody has called this a merger. Fedele said, “I wouldn’t be apoplectic if people used the word.” Basically, though, “We are becoming part of Baptist Health.”

The partnership would bring change to Boca Regional; that’s the point. But first, here’s what wouldn’t change:

  • The name. Boca Regional would remain Boca Regional, though probably with a tagline or other reference to Baptist Health.
  • The board. Boca Regional would continue to have separate trustees, though they would coordinate with their counterparts at Baptist. If Boca Regional wanted to add a comparatively minor program, the hospital likely could do that on its own. If Boca Regional wanted to add what Fedele called “the next institute”—like the Marcus Neuroscience Institute—that likely would require a consultation. “Where those lines are,” Fedele said, will be part of the discussion over the next two months.
  • Philanthropy. What’s raised in Boca would stay in Boca. The hospital’s foundation, a separate corporation, would remain.
Jerry Fedele

So what would change? The most obvious development would be what Fedele called “a very material capital commitment” toward Boca Regional’s new inpatient building. Those glittery new institutes that Fedele described as “nothing short of spectacular” surround the hospital’s historic, aging tower.

Fedele said Boca Regional is short on operating rooms and private rooms for patients. That commitment toward the capital campaign “was at the top of our list.”

The patient experience also would change, though Fedele said most differences would stem from changes within the industry, not the deal with Baptist. Those shifts, which Fedele said are accelerating, prompted Boca Regional to seek the partnership. Though its position now is strong, doing nothing could leave the hospital behind after the next decade.

Why Baptist and not Cleveland Clinic, the other finalist?

“It was a tough choice,” Fedele said.

Cleveland Clinic boasts not just a strong national brand but also an international presence. It has a facility in Weston.

Miami-Dade-based Baptist Health, however, brings dominance in South Florida, from the Keys to Palm Beach County. Baptist has almost 20,000 employees, 3,000 doctors and facilities—including nine hospitals—throughout the region.

“They are locally grounded,” Fedele said. Baptist previously struck a deal with Bethesda Hospital in Boynton Beach. Boca Regional wanted a non-profit partner. West Boca Medical Center and Delray Medical Center are part of for-profit Tenet Healthcare.

Fedele called Baptist “the best fit. It was the closest to us culturally and clinically. The medical staff culture is the same.” Fedele said Boca Regional emphasizes employee morale. Becker’s Healthcare Review has rated the hospital among the 150 best places to work in the industry. Meanwhile, Fortune magazine recently ranked Baptist Health 25th on its list of best companies to work for nationwide in any industry.

Fedele noted that the company acquired Fishermen’s Hospital in the Keys two months before Hurricane Irma destroyed it. Now Baptist is building a new, $40 million facility. In the meantime, Baptist has set up what amounts to a field hospital.

In a statement, Baptist Health said, “Boca Raton Regional Hospital aligns strategically with our organization and our plans to improve access to quality healthcare in our region. We share not-for-profit values of exceptional quality and service for our patients, high physician and employee engagement and a commitment to the communities we serve.”

From Boca Regional, Baptist would get $500 million in revenue and a hospital with a great local reputation. Discussions from here, Fedele said, will focus on “clinical programs, governance” and all the other issues that involve many lawyers. Boca Regional would hold a community meeting before the board voted on a deal.

Ultimately, Fedele said, “Everything can’t be embodied in a written agreement. The contract is a failsafe.” That’s another reference to the culture he believes Boca Regional and Baptist Health share. If he’s right, the two will be partners in 2019.

Hospital addition plans change

Boca Regional’s capital campaign includes not just the new patient tower but also a connecting parking garage and a power plant.

The city council approved the garage plan, but the project was delayed after neighbors unsuccessfully challenged the approval. Now the plan has changed.

Fedele said the hospital had wanted to build the garage in two phases. Instead, the plan is to break ground in March and complete the garage in one phase by “November or December.” It will replace the surface lot. Because of the expected disruption, most of the work will happen during the summer and before high season.

Upcoming Haynie hearing

Susan Haynie

On Sept. 11, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley will hear arguments on former Boca Raton Mayor Susan’s Haynie motion to dismiss the seven public corruption counts against her.

Kelley set the hearing during last Thursday’s status conference. He will hold another on Oct. 26, depending on what happens in September.

After Haynie filed her first motion for dismissal, prosecutors amended the charges, in some cases seeking to align the language with state law. She remains charged with four felonies and three misdemeanors. In Haynie’s new motion, attorney Bruce Zimet continues his theme that the state’s case is insufficient and/or vague.

Zimet generally argues that the first three counts, for official misconduct, don’t meet legal standards and don’t state which “benefits” Haynie allegedly obtained for herself. Regarding the fourth count, which alleges perjury, Zimet claims that prosecutors still haven’t specified which of Haynie’s statements is at issue. For the last three charges—for misuse of office and failure to disclose a voting conflict—Zimet argues that the state hasn’t specified what conduct was illegal and what benefits accrued.

The motion contains hints of Zimet’s larger theory about the case. He first intimated that prosecutors want to hobble Haynie’s defense. Dismissal can result, Zimet said, when charges are “so vague, indistinct, and indefinite, as to mislead the accused and embarrass him or her in the preparation of a defense or expose the accused after conviction or acquittal to substantial danger of a new prosecution for the same offense.”

Zimet has speculated that the case amounts to a “political takedown” of Haynie to benefit former Boca Raton City Councilman Robert Weinroth. He is expected to win the county commission seat Haynie had sought. Weinroth has dismissed that link.

In the new motion, Zimet writes, “Adherence to the constitutionally mandated rules of notice are even more significant in cases involving pubic officials in which expansive publicity has been generated, and in Haynie’s case, a smorgasbord of unfounded assertions.”

He adds, “Whether the deficiencies. . .are aberrational, or are part of additional due process issues will be determined during discovery. While the efficacy of the decision to file charges against Haynie in the middle of Haynie’s campaign for a Palm Beach County Commission seat, combined with the inevitable accompanying ‘perp walk,’ are at this point a political issue, Haynie is understandably aware of the potential legal significance of those activities in the defense of her case.”

Ethics Commission member recusal

As it happens, Haynie successfully argued that a member of the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics should recuse himself from a case involving her.

The commission investigated whether Haynie violated the ethics code by accepting a ticket to the YMCA Inspirational Breakfast from Doug Mosley. He’s an employee of ESPN, which produces the annual Boca Raton Bowl. The city also is a bowl sponsor.

Mosley thus qualifies as a vendor, and the $250 ticket exceeded the $100 limit on gifts from vendors. The commission found that while probable cause might exist, the violation was “inadvertent, unintentional or unsubstansial.” Haynie got a letter of instruction.

One of the five ethics commissioners is Peter Cruise, Florida Atlantic University’s appointment. Cruise is a professor and Executive Director of the LeRoy Collins Public Ethics Academy.

According to Haynie’s complaint, during an April meeting of the Lake Worth Rotary Club, Cruise said of the relationship between Haynie and James and Marta Batmasian that there was an “appearance that (Haynie) had been paid for her votes.”

Cruise also claimed falsely that Haynie had obtained the commission’s advisory opinion regarding a voting conflict on Batmasian items “after 14 lawyers told (Haynie) no.” She consulted only with Boca Raton City Attorney Diana Grub Frieser. Then, at a public function in June, Cruise was photographed with Robert Weinroth.

Cruise said he did not agree that he thus would be biased against Haynie. But Cruise acknowledged that his actions had met the legal standard and recused himself from the Mosley case.

Parks update

Development of two Boca Raton parks continues.

Last week, the city council approved the amended master plan for the second phase of Hillsboro/El Rio Park on the south side of 18th Street between Dixie Highway and the El Rio Canal. The project will include four pickleball courts, two tennis courts, a basketball court and a sand volleyball court. Pickleball fans now can play only during designated hours in the Sugar Sand Park field house.

Hillsboro/El Rio also have a spot along the canal to launch kayaks, canoes, paddleboats and other non-motorized vessels. It’s been 30 years since the city began planning this portion of the park. The hope is that it could open next year.

Also last week, the Boca Raton City Council approved a contract for the next piece of work on Lake Wyman/Rutherford Park.

The contract is for “detailed design documents” for the boardwalk restoration and extension, a new bathroom, the pavilions, canoe trail rehabilitation, launches and landings for kayaks and canoes and a walking path through the coastal hammock. The contract also will cover applications for state and federal permits.

Downtown post office update

In deciding to stay at its downtown Boca Raton location, the United States Postal Service got the 10-year lease the agency had wanted.

Robert Eisen works for Investments Limited, which owns the 0.65-acre site across Northeast Second Street from Mizner Park. The company, whose principals are James and Marta Batmasian, bought the property in 2013 for $4.2 million.

Eisen said Investments Limited and the Postal Service finally reached a deal because the company owned all the alternate sites downtown. Also, Eisen said, Batmasian “voluntarily” renovated the building and “was willing to sign the long lease,” which Eisen called “very unusual for such a prime redevelopment site.” Rising behind the site is the luxury condo Tower 155.

Like city officials, Eisen credited U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch for intervening with the Postal Service. Eisen also said Boca Beautiful President John Gore—who has ties to Washington—lobbied the Postal Service on behalf of Investments Limited.

New artificial reef

On Wednesday, the county will drop 530,000 tons of limestone rock off Boca Raton to create an artificial reef. It will be in roughly 35 feet of water.

The county is paying for the project with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The work will start at 8 a.m. and last for a couple of hours.

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Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

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