In a move that could have large implications for the state’s scientific research centers, Gov. Rick Scott has sent strongly worded letters to the University of Miami and two other cancer research facilities warning them they can’t make money from expanding their brands if they want to continue to receive state funds.
Scott’s letters to UM’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and the Shands Cancer Hospital in Gainesville say that organizations receiving state biomedical research funds “may not franchise their name or brand to other private entities” and “may not receive royalties or other remuneration from other entities in exchange for use of their name or brand.”
The letters are part of Scott’s larger goal to create a statewide funding policy for cancer research centers, Scott spokesman Lane Wright said in an email this week. The letters, dated May 10, note that Sylvester and Shands each received $7.5 million from the Legislature this fiscal year. Moffitt received $5 million.
A former chief executive of the for-profit HCA hospital chain, Scott has previously expressed concerns that government-owned hospitals have unfair advantages over for-profit and nonprofit hospitals.
The letters extend this concern to nonprofit cancer research centers. Scott told the facilities that he wanted “a robust and competitive environment” in the area of cancer treatments and “a fair and balanced playing field for all institutions.”
As “requirements” for future funding, Scott gave three conditions: not franchising the center’s name, not receiving royalties for such branding and reporting any partnership to the Department of Health.
“Future eligibility to receive state biomedical research funds will be contingent on compliance with these terms. These conditions are not meant to be punitive or stifle innovation,” Scott wrote, “but rather to foster a healthy and viable climate for growth and development in the area of biomedical research and cancer treatment in Florida.”
When contacted about the letter by The Miami Herald, the cancer centers responded cautiously. UM said it “is deeply grateful for Gov. Scott’s commitment to cancer research and treatment. We look forward to joining the state’s other cancer centers in working with the governor to improve cancer care for all Floridians.”
Shands officials said they have had a “positive discussion” with Scott’s staff and “are continuing to work toward our common goal of making Florida a destination for the latest in cancer research and care.”
Moffitt officials said they look forward to meeting with the governor, adding: “As the only Florida-based National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center we have a unique role to reach out to doctors, hospitals and health organizations around the state to fulfill our legislative intent to serve as a statewide research institute and to perform a statewide function.”
Most state healthcare experts generally consider Moffitt the most aggressive of the three in expanding its Tampa base. In South Florida, Moffitt has alliances with Broward Health and Baptist Health South Florida.
A spokeswoman for Broward Health, the public hospital system in northern Broward County, said the hospitals pay Moffitt a fee that “covers things such as access to expert clinicians and a wide variety of sub-specialists and opportunities for partnerships on educational offerings. Broward Health does not pay them for branding or franchising.”