Two years ago, this community came together to begin writing a new future for healthcare in Miami-Dade County. Doctors and nurses, elected leaders and civic volunteers, patients and families — all of us together said that we would not give up on the promise of Jackson Health System.
That promise — that world-class healthcare should be available to everyone in our community, regardless of their ability to pay — was in jeopardy. Jackson was bleeding so much money that its doors were on the verge of closing. Oversight systems were so broken that inaccurate financial information was being reported. Fewer families chose Jackson for their care.
Regulators, partners and patients began losing faith. It was a downward spiral that choked the system’s ability to keep up with private hospitals, who were building new foundations for healthcare’s rapidly changing landscape. Issues like the 2009 financial breakdown cited in last week’s settlement with the Securities & Exchange Commission prompted a focused and united effort to change Jackson for the better.
Two years later, look how far we’ve come. Instead of losing $80 million to $90 million a year, Jackson earned a surplus of more than $8 million last year and is on target for more than $35 million this year. In crucial measures of medical quality, we are beating national averages. New agreements with the exceptional physicians at the University of Miami and the fledgling program at Florida International University have made our academic partnerships stronger than ever.
We cooperated with the SEC to understand everything that prior administrators had done wrong in 2009. In the end, they determined that the reforms we have already made during the last two years put Jackson back in compliance. It was gratifying to receive that independent affirmation that we’ve moved in the right direction.
But even as strong as Jackson has become today, it is not well positioned to be strong in the future. The gap between our public funding and the cost of our public mission has nearly doubled in just two years to almost $140 million.
Instead of seeking a new taxpayer subsidy for our operations, though, Jackson has developed a true long-term business plan that will allow us to preserve our mission for the next generation. The key is attracting enough insured patients to fund those who cannot afford care. We cannot attract those new patients, though, when Jackson is limited to aging buildings on a few campuses. We need the latest medical technology, neighborhood-based care centers and modernized hospital facilities.
Of all the things Jackson did wrong in the past, nothing was so egregious as refusing to see, understand and prepare for the changes in healthcare. Now, a broad coalition of leaders in healthcare, academics, faith groups, labor unions and civic groups have declared in one voice that we will not let that happen again. We will do the hard work today to ensure a bright future tomorrow.
When Miami-Dade County voters go to the ballot box on Nov. 5, they can help us build that bright future. By modernizing the operating rooms and emergency rooms in our hospitals, we can sustain Jackson’s promise of saving our neighbors when they need us most. By building new facilities for our children’s hospital and our rehabilitation center, we can enhance Jackson’s promise of bringing the best clinical care to the most vulnerable of our patients. And by funding the creation of up to a dozen new neighborhood urgent-care clinics, we can be part of the new movement to make healthcare closer, more familiar and more personal for so many Miami-Dade families. We can ensure that Miami-Dade residents always have access to the latest medical technology, as well as renovated facilities that are comfortable for patients and their families.
It all comes down to one central point: If we make the right investments in Jackson now, we can empower Jackson to thrive for the future. We can put the pieces in place for Jackson to control its destiny, compete in its marketplace and rise or fall on its own merits. I think that’s what our community wants and expects.
Together, we begin writing a new chapter in healthcare for Miami-Dade County. It’s our community, our Jackson, our future.
Carlos A. Migoya is president and CEO of the Jackson Health System.