A union-financed flier blasting “the great Jackson Hospital giveaway” is ratcheting up the already intense debate about outsourcing doctor services at Jackson Health System’s emergency rooms and the spinoff argument about how much politicians and taxpayers should be able to influence the system’s operations.
“Miami-Dade politicians and their politically connected friends are at it again,” says the flier, appearing in mailboxes of about 1.2 million voters throughout the county. “They have collected BILLIONS of our tax dollars to run Jackson Memorial Hospital. Now they want to sell off the very heart of our public hospital, the people’s hospital.”
The flier says it comes from a group called Our Jackson, with no other identifying information except a website, ourjackson.org. The flier does not mention SEIU Local 1991, which represents Jackson’s nurses and other healthcare professionals.
On Thursday, SEIU spokeswoman Jennifer LaMont acknowledged that the local is financing the flier and Our Jackson effort. “The nurses and doctors at Jackson are committed to informing the public about their public hospital and are funding a campaign to do so.”
The flier refers to a proposal last month from Jackson Chief Executive Carlos Migoya to explore whether outsourcing certain clinical services in Jackson’s ERs — including the rape treatment center — would save money and improve services.
Jackson spokesman Edwin O’Dell on Thursday called the flier “misinformation being spread while cloaked in anonymity.”
He called Migoya’s proposal to ask private companies to bid on a contract to supply the ER services “a fact-finding mission. No decision has been made. Nothing will be sold. No one will be denied access. No third party will set policy for care. And nothing will be done to alter or compromise our mission.”
SEIU local President Martha Baker said the union isn’t conducting a stealth campaign. “We’ve been very open about our opposition to privatizing the ER.” She didn’t reveal how much the flier cost but said it was being sent to all Miami-Dade registered voters.
Migoya has said the privatization could affect 46 full-time employees — 29 physicians, 16 nurse practitioners and one physician’s assistant.
Still, 30 speakers, including three county commissioners, showed up at a Jackson board meeting last week to complain about Migoya’s proposal. Commissioner Barbara Jordan sat through almost six hours of discussion, twice telling the board she feared that the ER move “is a backdoor approach to the full privatization of Jackson.”
Jordan and other speakers said Migoya has a responsibility to Miami-Dade taxpayers not to spend their money on for-profit companies that would likely ignore the needs of the poor and uninsured who crowd Jackson’s ERs.
This week, Linda Quick, president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association, noted that public hospitals contract with for-profit companies all the time — for drugs, surgical supplies, testing equipment and such. She said Migoya should be able to do what’s best for Jackson: “They’re not selling the institution. They’re issuing an RFP [request for proposals] to look for someone with more experience at running an ER. Public hospitals all over the country outsource their emergency rooms.”