19 March 2024

Hospital fails Key West - Weekly briefing - March 19, 2024

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Hospital fails Key WestLinda Cunningham followed up on last week's news about Lower Keys Medical Center, and City Commissioner Sam Kaufman's plan to form a task force to consider options ahead of the contract expiration in 2029. Kaufman reported to the City Commission last year that troubled parent company CHS pulled about $31 million in profit from Lower Keys, while closing the one cancer treatment center here. There are 63 job postings now, including physicians and surgeons, a lot of empty spots for a facility that says it has 144-200 employees.
Haitian invasion? Gov. Ron DeSantis is sending up to 133 soldiers to the Florida Keys in anticipation of a potential influx of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers from Haiti, which has been  afflicted by gang violence recently.

Publix buys Keys Plaza. Supermarket industry and commercial real estate publications reported that Publix has purchased Keys Plaza for $74 million. The site is the grocer's second Key West location (where Albertsons was), as well as the shuttered KMart store. No plans were announced in conjunction with the sale. 

City opposed North Roosevelt palm removal. The Key West City Commission approved a resolution requesting FDOT remove the guardrails from plans and maintain the palm trees. An FDOT construction project scheduled to start in 2025 calls for the removal of the palms from the end of U.S. 1 to nearly Eisenhower Drive to make room for guardrails to be installed along the path and the bay.

Golf course opposed. Overdevelopment concerns and resident demands for transparency surrounding the upcoming Florida Keys Resort at the Florida Keys Country Club property once again brought out a full house to the Marathon City Council’s March 12 session.
State funds budgeted for the Keys. Florida legislators approved a $117.5 billion budget to conclude a 60-day session in Tallahassee on March 8. Funds for a number of Florida Keys projects were included in the state spending plan, but not all requests were granted for the southernmost county. The budget awaits Gov. DeSantis' signature, subject to his line-item veto authority. 

Liveaboard rate increase postponed at Garrison Bight. After a heated debate and angry public comments, Key West city commissioners postponed for up to 90 days implementing a significant rate hike for some live-aboard boaters at the city-owned Garrison Bight Marina. The rate increase for part-time boaters docked at the marina had been scheduled to go into effect on April 1.

ROGO workshop scheduled for Key Largo. The first of a series of ROGO workshops is scheduled at for 10 a.m. on March 20 at the Murray Nelson Government Center in Key Largo. Florida Keys leaders have 10 months to respond to the state on which hurricane evacuation model is best for the island chain, a decision that will determine if or how many additional residential building permits will be issued.

Underwater speakers help restore degraded reefs. Researchers have discovered a new method that could encourage the restoration of degraded coral reef populations

Not just in Monopoly. Mandy Miles appreciated free parking in Key West after learning an expensive lesson.

Which hysterical bird? Mark Hedden is rereading Elizabeth Bishop's poems, in the hope of determining what birds were having temper tantrums.  

Our Eyes

Dragonfly - Lynne Bentley-Kemp

Previously in Key West Voices

Hospital operator has money and legal troubles. Keys Weekly advised us that Community Health Service (CHS), the private for-profit company that runs Lower Keys Medical Center (LKMC) has money trouble, according to its own financial reports. CHS operates 71 hospitals. 
  • And a federal investigation. In a Feb. 21 filing with the SEC, CHS also said it is under federal investigation
  • Not the first time. In 2018, CHS subsidiary Health Management Associates agreed to pay the federal government $262 million to resolve allegations of billing irregularities.  
  • There are five years left on the 30 year contract awarded to CHS to run LKMC.
  • Taxing district - Lower Florida Keys Hospital District is a state-chartered special taxing district to provide and maintain a hospital in the district which runs from Key West to the Seven Mile Bridge.
  • Kaufman task force. “I don’t think people realize what a critical time we’re in with only five years left on this lease,” said City Commissioner Sam Kaufman, who is forming a task force to investigate options. Dr. Jack Norris wants to participate
  • $31 million in profits. Keys Weekly called up a 2023 article in which Kaufman questioned CHS. "We have a deficit of physicians. We don’t have a cancer center. We don’t have a first-class cardiac care center. … But what I do see is $31 million in profit for 2022 going from our hospital to CHS."
  •  An advocacy group called Our Hospital Key West is asking the local board that oversees LKMC to find a different operator rather than renew the lease with CHS.
$26 million TDC surplus earmarked for workforce housing. The Florida Legislature has agreed to let Monroe County leaders spend $25 million in surplus TDC tax revenue to build workforce housing.
TDC audit scrutinizes contracts. The third audit by the County Clerk questioned increases in TDC spending with Tinsley Advertising & Marketing since 2019 and if that company is receiving preferential treatment when bidding on the (now) $36 million-a-year contract. The audit cleared Tinsley itself of wrongdoing. 

Coach Dex remembered. Beloved Key West teacher and basketball coach Dexter Butler died suddenly on March 2, in a freak accident that shattered the community.
Drop dead. Chris Hamilton is irked by the County's (and one commissioner in particular) continued unwillingness to give up its reserved parking spots on Southard Street needed to realize the city's plan for an uninterrupted bike lane from White Street to the Truman Waterfront Park, despite the recent move by the Supervisor of Elections to Stock Island.   

City Commission to meet. The regular meeting of the Key West City Commission begins at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 14.