Jackson needs upgrade to fulfill public mission



We live in one of the country’s most competitive healthcare markets, and this year begins the industry’s most radical competitive transformation in generations. Private hospitals are racing to become more attractive to patients and provide the latest facilities and equipment, and Jackson Health System cannot afford to be left behind.

Last week, my colleagues on the Public Health Trust Board of Trustees asked for a special election this fall to let voters consider an $830 million investment in modernizing and updating Jackson Health System’s next generation of facilities. Jackson has a unique and treasured legacy of bringing some of the world’s most advanced medical care to every Miami-Dade County resident, from the wealthy to the needy.

Jackson was stagnant for many years, sliding into a financial crisis by refusing to understand and respond to our changing world. Now, two years into an unprecedented transformation, we have ended the string of eight- and nine-figure annual losses and have begun earning surpluses to reinvest in programs. Those alone, however, are not enough to bring Jackson into its best future — we must build on our momentum and take bold action to grow successfully and strategically.

Our plan includes contemporary and family-friendly patient rooms and upgrades to our operating rooms and emergency departments. There is a new rehabilitation hospital for our famed partnership with the University of Miami and The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, as well as a new children’s ambulatory center to expand access to one of the nation’s top-ranked packages of pediatric specialties. A network of urgent-care centers across Miami-Dade County will bring Jackson’s celebrated care teams into more of our neighborhoods. The program would also fund critical and long-deferred infrastructure needs such as upgraded medical-record systems, compliance with 40-year building certification requirements, and cutting-edge medical equipment.

We look forward to a thoughtful community conversation with our elected leaders and constituents regarding this unique opportunity to take advantage of low financing costs while creating a public investment into one of our most treasured institutions. Previous Jackson administrations sought taxpayer bailouts because they could not manage their way to success; today we are seeking taxpayer investment because we have shown such successful results.

These strategic projects are key to preserving Jackson’s historic public mission. An independent audit conducted pursuant to state law found that services provided by Jackson exceeded our government funding by more than $139 million in 2012. We are committed to maintaining those services, which demands that we do a better job of attracting a broad range of patients and physicians — our private work will fund our public promise to deliver the same high level of care for everyone.

Moreover, our capital vision is aligned with operational plans to reinvest in our employees by providing new job opportunities, incentives to retain the market’s best professionals, and growth prospects within and across job classifications.

No other hospital system will be standing still during this unprecedented shift in the American healthcare market, and Jackson cannot afford to be left flat-footed. Our taxpayer-owners expect excellence and vision. This plan will deliver.

Darryl K. Sharpton is chairman of the Public Health Trust Board of Trustees

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