In the past year, two health clinics — one in Little Havana, the other in Overtown — have rebelled against Jackson Health System, with their boards complaining the huge public hospital system isn’t serving their neighborhoods well enough. But the clinics may have no other option now.
The Dr. Rafael A. Peñalver Clinic in Little Havana, which publicly split from Jackson a year ago and partnered with a doctors’ group to provide services, learned last week that the doctors were losing money and pulling out of the deal. On Tuesday, the clinic’s board agreed to open negotiations with Jackson about returning to the facility.
In Overtown, the board of the Jefferson Reaves Sr. Medical Center voted last summer that it, too, wanted to find someone other than Jackson to manage the clinic. The Miami-Dade County Health Department, which has overall responsibility for the facility, rejected that attempt last month, saying Jackson would continue to handle services there.
The situations at the two clinics have intensified criticism that Jackson, which receives more than $300 million in county tax money annually, is not doing enough to fulfill its mission to serve the poor and uninsured. Jackson executives respond that they have done a lot to improve their performance, especially in the past six months, as the system’s finances have improved.
“There’s been a new push on primary care,” said spokesman Edwin O’Dell. That includes creating a new clinic on the Jackson Memorial campus and improving operations at places like the Reaves clinic.
But Darryl Reaves, chairman of the advisory board for the center named after his father, is unconvinced: “Jackson just doesn’t get primary care,” he said. He complained that in recent years, Jackson closed down the clinic’s pharmacy, ended sonogram and X-ray services and stopped providing dental care.
At Peñalver, Executive Director Boris Alvarez complained in October that when Jackson was in control, patients had to wait four to six weeks to get an appointment. After Gold Coast Physician Partners came in a year ago, patients were often seen within a day and no later than three days after they requested an appointment. At the time, he said the difference was like “night and day.”
Then, on Nov. 16, Gold Coast announced it was “unable to generate sufficient revenues from operations to continue services,” and that it planned to leave Peñalver in 60 days.
Alvarez did not return a reporter’s telephone call Wednesday. Gold Coast also did not respond to a request for comment, but Jackson Chief Executive Carlos Migoya trumpeted the development on Wednesday in a memo to county commissioners.
“Clearly this is an exciting opportunity for Jackson to reclaim its footprint in one of our community’s central neighborhoods,” Migoya wrote. “Primary care is an essential part of our mission and — because it feeds our other programs and services — a critical part of our growth strategy.” He said his management team would open discussions with Peñalver’s board about forming a new partnership.
Board member Rafael Peñalver, whose father’s name is on the clinic, said he was happy Jackson was back in the picture. “I don’t think any entity other than Jackson can provide the safety-net services, particularly for the uninsured.”