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Published on July 01, 2015

Commission on hospital funding meets with CEOs from UF Health, St. Vincent's HealthCare

By Charlie Patton, Florida Times-Union

The CEO of UF Health Jacksonville said Wednesday during a meeting of Gov. Rick Scott’s Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding’s “Spotlight Transparency Tour” stop in Jacksonville that he believes his hospital is providing a return on investment that “may be the best in Florida.”

UF Health Jacksonville “provides high quality health care” while losing money on half its patients, who are either on Medicaid or have no insurance, said Russell Armistead. He said the city of Jacksonville provided UF Health with $26,000 to care for 10,000 uninsured people but that there are 140,000 uninsured people in Jacksonville, the majority of whom look to UF Health not just for emergency care but for primary care as well.

Following the meeting, the governor’s press office issued a press release that showed UF Health has a “potentially preventable readmission rate” of 6.76 percent and a “serious complication rate,” which measures the frequency of Medicare patients who are admitted with one medical problem and suffer a serious injury or infection during the course of treatment, of 1.23. A rate of 1 is considered average

By contrast, St. Vincent’s Medical Center Riverside numbers were 6.5 percent and .54.

Among Northeast Florida hospitals St. Vincent Riverside’s “serious complication rate” was the best in the region and better than the national rate. UF Health’s was the worst region and worse the national rate. All other area hospitals are considered no different than the national rate.

UF Health Jacksonville’s numbers are negatively impacted by the nature of its patient population, which has high percentage of alcoholism, homelessness and psychosis, said David Vukich, the hospital’s chief medical officer. “We treat the sickest of the sick,” he said. “It’s the population that is most difficult to treat.”

Jason Rosenberg, a reconstructive microsurgeon from Gainesville who is member of the nine-person commission, praised UF Health Jacksonville. “You do a great job of taking care of people who are really, really sick,” he said. “You are one of the most efficient hospitals in the state.”

During a break in the meeting, Armistead said that UF Health, which faced a potential crisis after the federal government threatened to cut all low income pool funding in Florida, a source of about $95 million for UF Health in the last fiscal year, ended up with a combination of federal and state funding that is only $400,000 less than it received last year. He said that he expects, once the final figures are computed, that the hospital will have finished about $3 million in the black for the year. He said he welcomed the opportunity to talk to the commission.

“I’m delighted to be here,” he said. “I don’t feel picked upon. It’s a chance to talk about what’s wrong with the health care system and what’s right with the health system.”

Also speaking during the meeting was Donnie Romine, interim CEO of St. Vincent’s HealthCare. He said that St. Vincent’s three hospitals, especially the Riverside hospital, face the same problem UF Health Jacksonville faces in that “people are accessing our ERs for primary care.”

Like UF Health Jacksonville, St. Vincent’s Riverside receives some low income pool funding. He said the hospital’s patient mix includes about 10 percent Medicaid patients and about 20 percent uninsured patients.

The commission, which previously had met in Tallahassee and in Tampa, has one more meeting scheduled, later this month in Miami.

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