The board that runs Jackson Health System on Monday voted to ask Miami-Dade commissioners to call a special election in November asking voters to approve an $830 million bond to pay for renovations and equipment upgrades at the taxpayer-owned hospital system.
The request from the Public Health Trust that runs Jackson came as something of a surprise, since it was not on the agenda prior to the meeting, but was added at the last minute by Darryl Sharpton, the board’s newly appointed chairman.
Though the resolution approved by the board did not mention a specific dollar amount, Sharpton said the hospital system needs a cash infusion of between $700 million and $1 billion to improve facilities, which include the main hospital in Miami’s civic center and satellite hospitals in North Miami Beach and South Miami-Dade. A spokesman for Jackson said the amount requested would be $830 million.
“We’re at a crossroads,’’ Sharpton said at Monday’s meeting of the seven-member board. “We have to do something drastically different or risk being irrelevant.’’
Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, who chairs the county’s health and social services committee, said she supports the request and will sponsor the resolution at the next county commission meeting on July 3.
“It’s definitely needed,’’ Edmonson said Monday. “They have failing equipment ... leaking roofs. Equipment needs to be updated. The emergency room as well, there’s just so much that needs to be done at Jackson. It’s been neglected for years.’’
The hospital system is on the road to financial recovery after several years of fiscal crises that included about $419 million in losses over three years.
“Jackson is now profitable and is solvent for the first time in many years,’’ Sharpton said at Monday’s board meeting. “Financially we are better by almost any empirical measure.’’
But Sharpton said Jackson will need more financial support from its taxpayer owners in order to compete with other local hospital systems, and to ensure the long term sustainability of Miami-Dade’s safety-net hospital system for the poor and uninsured. He noted several areas where Jackson needs to improve to remain competitive.
“Some of our patients have to wait too long for some of our services,’’ he said. “Geographically, we’re not as strategically positioned as we should be.… We have learned system-wide that our facilities do not match those of other hospitals. We need to modernize our facilities and operating rooms.’’
Sharpton also noted that Jackson is challenged to keep the paying patients the hospital system already sees, and to increase revenues. In the past four years, in-patient admissions at Jackson have dropped 21 percent.
“To effectively meet our challenges,’’ he said, “this system needs a capital injection of anywhere from $700 million to $1 billion. This is a direct result of years of neglect that this institution has painfully endured.’’
Sharpton said Jackson, whose administrators declared financially solvent in May for the first time in five years, is capable of funding “a significant portion of this need, perhaps as much as 20 percent.’’