The Miami Herald

Hospital board stage-managed public hearing

I attended the June 20 special meeting of the South Broward Hospital District Board of Commissioners dealing with whether the district’s hospitals and facilities should be privatized. I have never left a government meeting feeling so ignored and disenfranchised.

Like most public meetings, those wishing to speak were asked to fill out “speaker cards.” Unlike any other meeting I’ve attended, immediately before opening the public hearing, I watched as a hospital executive stood two feet in front of me and cherry-picked through the cards and established an order of speakers, not unlike the manner in which a baseball manager establishes his batting order.

Consequently, at least the first 90 minutes of the public hearing (I left at that point out of frustration) consisted entirely of government officials; six heartwarming stories of positive patient outcomes that were clearly presented by invitation; cheerleading executives representing corporate partners; and doctors that work within the system.

The average taxpayer was excluded for at least the first three and a half hours of the meeting, including the public hearing. This dog-and-pony show made it clear that there never was any intent to obtain meaningful public input.

Ironically, I support the board’s ultimate decision to remain a public entity. However, the methods it used to attain that outcome were a disgrace. Whether I agree or disagree, I expect to participate on a fair and level playing field. That never happened, and I was furious when I stormed out.

But even worse, what if I had wanted to present an opposing opinion? I can’t even imagine the anger and frustration that such a person must have felt. Calling it a public hearing while simultaneously choreographing at least the first ninety minutes was shameful.

The South Broward Hospital Board wasted my time. It invited me to participate then ignored and devalued my opinion.

Russell R. Chard, Hollywood

© 2012 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.