Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news from Florida for working families since 2007


LSHA: With  Shands at Lake Shore Going Down for the Count, Not One Word On Tonight's Agenda About Its Eminent Demise or the Future

More LSHA stories are here.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – There is a lot going on at the Lake Shore Hospital Authority. Community Health Systems (CHS) the operator of Shands at Lake Shore Hospital is going down for the count. Look at the agenda for this evening's meeting and it looks like business as usual.


The agenda for tonight's LSHA meeting is here. The instructions for joining the virtual only meeting are on page 3.

According to conversations the Observer has been having with Lake Shore Hospital Authority Manager Dale Williams and others, for the past 4 years Shands at Lake Shore has been losing money.

Operating losses for the past four years are claimed to be $19 mil and when factoring in CHS's capital expenditures the loss is claimed to be $24 million.

CHS has no lender assistance and it appears that doctors in ER, Radiology and Anesthesiology wanted some sort of subsidies.

While everyone has known for quite some time that patients were not going to Shands Lake Shore for inpatient care, the average daily census (occupancy) of 24 inpatient beds was shocking to some and a money losing proposition, as generally 80% is required to make money.

CHS stated that as a percentage its occupancy rate was 30%.

What may be surprising to some, CHS claimed that the losses in OB were $1.2 mil annually.

The position of CHS is that the Lake City, Columbia County population will not support 2 hospitals.

The Latest

On Friday, July 10, 2020, a 9 am memo from CHS's Jack Montois was not good news for Shands Lake Shore employees.

Mr. Montois explained CHS has begun winding down services.

Mr. Montois wrote, "I want to be sure you all understand that this decision to end operations is in no way reflective on you, your skills or commitment. Every team member, whether an employee, physician on the medical staff, member of the board of trustees, or volunteer is valued for your impact on the patients who have come to the hospital for care."

Mr. Montois continued, "All clinical services affiliated with Shands Lake Shore Medical Center - inpatient, emergency department, outpatient, and employed clinics - will end on or before August 31, 2020. The last day for elective procedures or inpatient admissions, including planned, inpatient childbirth, will be August 24, 2020."

"All operations and all employment with Shands Lake Shore Medical Center and the affiliated clinics will permanently cease at 11:59 p.m. on August 31, 2020 and there will be no remaining jobs to bid or bump into."

Mr. Montois explained that job fairs will be held to help employees in their search for new jobs.

CHS and the Lake Shore Hospital Authority

Beginning on October 1, the hospital known as Shands at Lake Shore will be under the total control of the Governor's Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board and its Manager, Dale Williams.

Like a flock of ostriches with their heads buried in the sand, the Governor's Boards at the Authority going back to 2005 and the beginning of the reign of Republican political operative and future Authority Manager Jackson P. "Jack" Berry have squandered every opportunity that presented itself for making Shands at Lake Shore a true community hospital and a model for rural health care.

An Authority Board membership became a bullet point on a political resume of its members who aspired to higher political office.

For over a decade, the Governor's Board has been a club for white folks and the well connected.

Past Board member Tim Murphy and present Board Chairman Brandon Beil are now facing off for Mr. Murphy's County Commission seat.

The future Clerk of the Courts Jay Swisher, who became clerk because of his pedigree, will be remembered by those who care as one of the LSHA Board members who was on duty when the hospital was abandoned by its operator, putting 240 people out of work.

The Future

Columbia County's infamous good ole' boy culture permeates all areas of government in Columbia County, where backroom deals are the order of the day.

The most recent example at the Authority is the recent one-on-one daisy chain of meetings with Board members and others with CHS to break the news of the impending demise of the hospital instead of just calling a special meeting and putting everyone on the same page at the same time.

There are various opinions regarding the future. One group believes the Authority and the hospital just needs to go away, while another contingent believes the community needs to find an operator for the hospital, and others believe services should be broken up into various clinics and services.

The Governor's Board is the final decider and it has already made at least one monumental decision in the shadows and out of the sunshine.


If the people, read the public, who finance the Authority want to be heard, they will have to demand to be heard, or the collective knee of the Governor's Board will continue be on the necks of Columbia County citizens like it always has resulting in another lost opportunity for quality rural health care.

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