12 March 2024

LKMC operator has money and legal troubles - Weekly briefing - March 12, 2024

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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.  

Our Eyes

Good Morning - Alyson Crean

Previously in Key West Voices

Yet another TDC audit raises doubts. In the latest of its (so far) three audits of Monroe County's Tourism Development Council, the Monroe County Clerk found a lack of transparency by the TDC. Between fiscal year 2022 and 2023, TDC increased its advertising budget from $18.6 million to $30.2 million – without providing “any economic justification for such a material increase.”
  • Bidding fairness. The audit also challenged the fairness of its bidding process, questioned whether Tinsley Advertising is receiving preferential treatment, and recommended the TDC rebid the contract. Tinsley itself passed the audit. 
  • Read it yourself. Of course, you may read the entire audit here
  • Correction. Last week's KWV asserted that no recording of the TDC board meeting on February 20 was available. In fact, a link to an often poor quality audio recording of the nearly two hour meeting was readily provided to KWV upon request. KWV apologizes for the error. However, there's no mention of the recording's availability on TDC's page on the County's web site. 
Sam I am... not. Contrary to his earlier statements to local media, incumbent city commissioner Sam Kaufman confirmed that he will not run for Key West mayor and would instead remain on the commission
Local candidates appeared at Hometown Key West's Call for Candidates gathering on February 26.
Mysterious aquatic deaths. Many media outlets, including some on the mainland, are reporting on a spate of unexplained deaths of endangered sawfish in the Keys, as well as various fish species swimming upside down in circles. Theories about the cause abound, urgent research is underway and proposed, but answers remain elusive.
  • Reward offered. Federal wildlife officers responded in January to reports of an unhealthy-looking sawfish. Officers found the sawfish, beached on a shallow flat oceanside of Geiger Key, missing its saw-shaped snout. NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement said it is offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information that leads to a criminal conviction or a civil penalty of whoever injured or mutilated the sawfish.  
Abortion rights heading for the ballot? Florida voters could have the chance on November 5 to protect a woman’s right to have an abortion by approving an amendment to the state constitution.
  • A statewide campaign led by Floridians Protecting Freedom collected 996,512 signatures — more than 100,000 more than the 891,523 that were needed.
  • Supreme Court review. Now the amendment language must be approved by the state Supreme Court. The court’s ruling on the Amendment 4 ballot initiative is due by April 1. The justices are not supposed to consider the merits of the case or the proposal, just the proposed ballot wording.
Cruise ship cap upheld in Federal court. Safer Cleaner Ships celebrated a Federal court ruling (by a Trump-appointed judge) upholding cruise ship restrictions approved by voters in Bar Harbor, Maine. While the ruling has no immediate impact here due to the Florida legislature's preemption of the three majority-approved referenda limiting cruise ships in Key West, SCS said that the people of Key West should "take strength from the fact that a federal judge has found clear Constitutional authority for municipalities to limit cruise ship passenger disembarkations at private facilities such as Pier B."   

Foul play is not suspected. Dexter Butler, a “beloved” teacher and basketball coach at Key West High School, was found dead in a storm drain near the school on Saturday morning, police said.

Time travel. Linda Cunningham took us back to the 1980's with her love for reading old newspapers. There's truth behind the old saw that the more things change..
  • Plus c'est la même chose... Linda gifted us this 1999 gem from the New York Times that includes a quote from recent Fantasy Fest Queen and local favorite Fran Decker.
Improving pedestrian safety. KWV guiding spirit Chris Hamilton wrote in praise of the many pedestrian safety improvements made by the City of Key West

Weird looking duck. Mark Hedden introduced us to a sexy duck, the red-breasted merganser