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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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LSHA Tonight:  Jacksonville’s ACE Medical to Make a Presentation to Your Neighbors, the Governor’s Hospital Authority Board

Lake Shore Hospital Board members
Columbia County Observer photos & graphic

More LSHA stories are here.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Since October 2020, Columbia County taxpayers have been paying almost $100,000 a month to keep the publically owned vacant “Shands at Lake Shore” hospital habitable. Ace Medical will make a presentation to the Governor’s Board at 5:15 pm this evening.

Background

In October 2020, Community Health Systems (CHS), after losing millions, decided it couldn't afford the loss anymore and bought out its lease, writing a check to the Lake Shore Hospital Authority for $7 mil.

Even with the County's taxpayers subsidizing indigent care to a guaranteed tune of about $3.5 mil a year, CHS was bleeding cash running the hospital it leased from the Authority.

You can read more about the evaporation of taxpayer money at the Lake Shore Hospital Authority here: Foot Dragging By Governor's Board Costing County Taxpayers $80k Plus a Month

Ace Medical

Your reporter learned yesterday afternoon. Ace Medical refused to provide the Governor’s Board a copy of its presentation.

According to correspondence from Authority Manager Dale Williams to the Governor's Board, Mr. Williams advised that Ace "has previously advised that they did not wish to make an advanced copy of their presentation available prior to the meeting. ACE officials stated that elements of their business model were to remain privileged until the presentation.”

Board Chairman Brandon Beil did not respond to a voice mail request for comment from the Observer.

In August, Ace Medical’s response to the Authority’s request for “Statements of Interest” (SOI) was undated and provided on plain paper without a letterhead. The Ace August 2020 letter of interest is here.

Ace was interested in working with the Authority in the following ways: affiliation, lease; merger; partnership; joint venture.

According to ACE CEO Madhukar Sharma's SOI, Ace wants to increase healthcare availability to Columbia County citizens by creating satellite clinics to draw patients from a 30-mile radius around the hospital.

Ace wants to add services, such as “psych, pain management, and counseling, and include home monitoring services and a home health aspect to provide better overall health care to the elderly population.”

Ace claims “establishing satellite clinics and draw stations will allow the reach of Lake Shore Hospital to spread to the edges of Columbia County.” This would “allow patients to get small and quick services without making the long drive to the main hospital building… making Lake Shore hospital's services more accessible to the community.”

Ace also wants to offer psychiatry, counseling, addiction treatment, pain management, podiatry, and cardiac catheriterzation labs.

Ace also wants to offer mental healthcare.

Ace believes that the problems surrounding CHS were “less financial and more management based.”

Ace Medical also runs a Jacksonville lab where it provides a full range of blood work, toxicology, and molecular testing.

CEO Sharma wrote in his SOI, “Both Ace Medical and Ace Bio Labs have absolutely no debt, and I believe that I can also make the hospital profitable and successful due to my extensive experience and knowledge of the healthcare marketplace.”

Ace Sends a Letter
A proposal here – a proposal there

On January 25, 2021, Ace sent a letter, this time on stationary, to Authority Manager Williams, thanking “Mr. Williams for the opportunity to submit a final proposal.”

The letter is basically a reiteration of their August 2020 SOI submission. It is an overview of Mr. Sharma's vision of its relationship with the Lake Shore Hospital Authority.

Mr. Sharma wrote [abridged]:

 It is imperative to get the hospital back up and running. Most important is applying for the license of the hospital. This can take up to a year. My team plans on setting up a clinic so that revenue can start to come in.

Initial clinics will include the following services: primary care, psychiatry, addiction management, and cardiology.

Based on cardiology's patient volume, a cardiac catheterization lab can simultaneously be opened, along with initial clinic services. A supplemental diagnostic laboratory and pharmacy will be opened on site. As the hospital continues to grow, we can continue to add pain, nephrology, maternity, mental health counseling, maternity, and pediatrics.

Mr. Sharma requested the Authority help “the hospital management in receiving local and state grants, and utilize their network to seek out county or state support and find any other resources that can be brought to the table.”

Tonight’s presentation by Ace Medical can be viewed in person at the Authority headquarters or online in Zoom at 5:15 pm. (Go to page 2 for the link to the meeting)

Authority Manager Dale Williams has Zoom expert Karl Plenge Zooming the meetings to assure a trouble-free broadcast.

Unlike Columbia County, which has quashed public Zoom participation during the pandemic, Chairman Beil has made sure that the public can participate, and time will be made available to hear the public's comments both in-person and online.

$100,000 for Tonight’s Presentation

Led by Chairman Brandon Beil, the Authority Board has done nothing to ratchet up the time between presentations to the Board by interested parties.

At a modest $80,000 a month to maintain the hospital, labeled a "dinosaur" by Board member and building expert Stephen Douglas, the five-week delay from the last presentation cost Columbia County taxpayers $100,000.

The Authority could have used this money to provide indigent care to what is left of the Hospital Authority client base at the Lake City Medical Center if the Board would have gotten off its behind and done something with the contract presented to it by the Medical Center. See: 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

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