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Columbia County Observer

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LSHA

Lake Shore Hospital Authority Has Been Striking Out For Years. Sitting on a $23 Mil Cash Stash, Now It Has a Chance to Get It Right

More LSHA stories are here.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – In 2005, the Lake Shore Hospital Authority was re-legislated to provide indigent care to Columbia County residents. A lack of vision and Columbia County good ole' boy politics recently led to its hospital's death. With the Lake City Medical Center knocking on the door, indigent care may have another home.

Background: An empty publically owned hospital

The Lake Shore Hospital Authority is an independent special taxing district, which in 2005 was repurposed to provide indigent care to Columbia County residents. At that time, political operative and well-known repo-man, Jackson P. "Jack" Berry, was appointed to the Hospital Authority Board by Governor Jeb Bush.

Jackson P "Jack" Berry
Jack Berry ruled the LSHA for 13 years with an iron fist.

Soon after Mr. Berry's appointment, the Authority went on a buying spree in downtown Lake City. With its sometimes strong-armed persuasion and infamous Columbia County good ole' boy insider backroom deals, the results of this buying spree can be seen when driving around the area. Visible from the Lake Shore Hospital and its $1 1/4 Mil Taj Mahal like headquarters are vacant lot after vacant lot.

Millions that could have been spent on indignant care were spent instead on vacant lots.

The Governor's Board: Monday Night

The Lake Shore Hospital Authority is sitting on a cash stash of $23 mil. The information provided by part-time Authority Manager Dale Williams asked for the Governor's Board approval of the Authority's bank accounts without one single amount presented to the Governor's Board.

It didn't make a difference. The accounts were unanimously approved, anyway.

The Authority previously put out a Request for Proposals looking for companies willing to take over the Authority's now-vacated hospital. According to part-time Authority Manager Dale Williams, there are three proposals worthy of further review. The Governor's Board and the Authority Staff are scheduling those proposals for public review and comment.

Board member Stephen Douglas called the present hospital a "dinosaur."

Dr. Mark Thompson, Lake City Medical Center
Dr. Mark Thompson practices medicine at the LCMC and previously at Shands at Lake Shore.                                (file)

Board member Dr. Mark Thompson, who practices medicine at LCMC, wanted to know if issues with the hospital building have to be disclosed to the people leasing the building.

Authority Attorney Fred Koberlein, Jr. answered, "You would want to disclose them so that you could negotiate and defer any potential issues in the future as much as possible to mitigate those. Also, you will have the potential lessee – unintelligible."

Authority Manager Williams said, "Potential candidates have been given –unintelligible - architectural reports and ask questions. There is nothing about that building I haven't told them."

Dr. Thompson added, "We were on track to put $6 million into that building in phase 1. And we were on track for 12 million in phase whatever. That building hasn't changed. The question is, is that going forward that we still want to spend money on because we can do our mission without that building."

While determining whether or not to invest public dollars in the now-vacant hospital is a Board decision, Manager Williams came up with an odd reply.

He said, "When you speak to those people, they will tell you how they would like to see that addressed."

Long time Board member Lory Chancy, who over the years watched Authority clients go from over 1,000 to 113 in November, added that she thought if the Authority leased the hospital, "this time we need to take care of the repairs so that we know they are done properly."

She didn't mention that the Authority had the responsibility to inspect all repairs at the hospital, fell short, and never did.

One More Proposal: Lake City Medical Center

Lake City Medical Center Brass. Photo circa 2010: CFO Jill Adams, CEO Charles Briscoe, Attorney Steve Escenia
On July 26, 2010, LCMC CFO Jill Adams, CEO Charles Briscoe, and LCMC Attorney Steve Escenia appeared before the LSHA Governor's Board to present their plan to provide indigent care services to the Authority. It was just a waste of time.           Columbia County Observer photo

Not listed on the agenda was the Lake City Medical Center's (LCMC) proposal to provide services to Authority clients who have qualified for the Authority's indigent care program. It was the Medical Center's first proposal since 2010.

The only way one would have known the proposal was there was by accident.

There is nothing that shows when or how the Authority received the proposal.

According to the LCMC proposal, the Medical Center would provide approved services at "Medicaid compensation rates."

Manager Williams said he asked Authority Attorney Koberlein to "take a look at it." It was not clear what Mr. Koberlein was supposed to do after that, and nobody asked.

Manager Williams also said he wanted input from the Governor's Board, "About how you feel about such an arrangement."

He also asked the Board to provide any changes they desired, but it wasn't clear how he would handle them.

Lorry Chancy, Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board Member in 2010
Long time Board member Lorry Chancy in 2010.

Board member Chancy weighed in on the Medical Center's proposed agreement by going on a mostly unintelligible riff about checking charts.

She said that the last time the Medical Center came to the Authority [2010] looking to provide services, it would not allow the Authority to inspect its charts for billing accuracy.

There is nothing in the record or this reporter's notes to support Ms. Chancy's allegations.

Ms. Chancy continued with unintelligible remarks and was followed by Manager Williams, who also provided unintelligible remarks.

Dr. Thompson weighed in again, "I think all this stuff is going to be looked at... With Lake Shore closing, they [Medical Center] have plans to expand their beds, their hospital. We have to look with an eye to the future... we are going to be looking at that carefully.

Board member Douglas weighed in, saying something about charts. He was almost completely unintelligible.

Dr. Thompson said he didn't know about the legalities of auditing medical charts. He asked Attorney Koberlein if he could help out.

Attorney Koberlein has been the Authority Attorney since 2015.

Mr. Koberlein responded, "Not at this time. I can - unintelligible - the issues."

Dr. Thompson said he wants to invite the CEO of the Medical Center to the Authority, "So that he can share the plans they have. I know they have plans to double the capacity of the emergency room. There are many plans going on, knowing that they are currently the only institution in town. I think we need all that information. This is an opportunity to get it right... They are the only hospital in town. They do have plans to expedite the capability of the emergency room... Certainly, they are well-capitalized, and they can make those things happen quickly."

Epilogue

With the Authority's $23 Mil in the bank and the Lake City Medical Center not looking for any sweetheart Columbia County good ole' boy deals, this would seem to be a perfect relationship.

This could be tough, as this has not been the way the Lake Shore Hospital Authority likes to do its business.

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