An emergency room physician and the top administrator for Broward Health, one of the nation’s largest public healthcare systems, Nabil El Sanadi immersed himself fully in the practice of medicine — caring for patients while also overseeing the day-to-day operations of a $1.8 billion-a-year network of hospitals, trauma centers and community clinics.
Friends and colleagues described El Sanadi, president and chief executive of Broward Health, as a charismatic and unflagging leader, and they expressed shock and grief over his death Saturday from what the Broward Sheriff’s Office reported as a gunshot wound, which appeared to be self-inflicted. He was 60.
“We are sad to hear about Dr. Nabil El Sanadi's passing,” said Frank Sacco, chief executive of Memorial Healthcare System, the public hospital network for South Broward, in a written statement. “Our hearts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”
Tony Carvalho, president of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, issued a statement noting that El Sanadi’s work touched many lives and made them better.
Bruce Rueben, president of the Florida Hospital Association, said in a statement that El Sanadi had just joined the organization’s board of trustees last fall and become a key member.
“He was a true leader, trusted friend and colleague,” Rueben said. “Dr. El Sanadi was a tireless advocate for patient safety and better access to high quality healthcare services for all.”
He was a true leader, trusted friend and colleague.
Bruce Rueben, president of the Florida Hospital Association
El Sanadi, who among his many community roles also served as medical director for BSO’s Department of Fire Rescue, was found by paramedics in a restroom in the lobby of the building where he lived in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. He was pronounced dead on the scene.
Detectives said foul play is not suspected, and that the Broward Medical Examiner’s Office will conduct an autopsy to determine the manner and cause of death.
Veda Coleman-Wright, a BSO spokeswoman, said that as of Sunday morning detectives had not found a suicide note.
The hospital’s governing board appointed Kevin Fusco, previously chief operating officer, as acting president and chief executive of the hospital system, which serves Broward residents north of Griffin Road.
El Sanadi, a past chairman of the Florida Board of Medicine, was appointed president and chief executive of Broward Health in December 2014.
Prior to being named CEO of Broward Health in December 2014, Nabil El Sanadi served as chief of emergency medicine for the healthcare system. He also has served as chief of emergency medicine for University Hospitals of Cleveland. He was a board member of the Broward Medical Association.
He had never run a hospital prior to his appointment, and he took over at a turbulent time when the healthcare system was under investigation by the federal government for allegedly colluding with physicians to submit tens of millions of dollars in fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid.
At the same time, Broward Health, like other so-called safety net hospitals in Florida, was contending with diminishing federal reimbursements for caring for the uninsured. The Florida Legislature’s refusal to expand eligibility for Medicaid, as provided for under the Affordable Care Act, made the job of serving the uninsured only harder, colleagues said.
In September, Broward Health paid nearly $70 million to settle allegations raised in a 2010 whistle blower lawsuit that the healthcare system had violated Medicare billing laws that ban paying physicians for referrals. The agreement was the largest settlement without litigation ever reached under the federal law prohibiting physician compensation that presents a financial conflict of interest.
Sources familiar with the case said the civil penalty settled the matter, and that there is no related criminal investigation.
Linda Quick, past president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association, said El Sanadi was “an amazing emergency room physician” who came up with new techniques to save patient lives and generously shared his knowledge with colleagues.
“He would do things like have training rounds for other emergency room doctors to teach them new techniques and procedures,” she said.
$69.5M Amount paid by Broward Health in 2015 to settle allegations of healthcare fraud
After El Sanadi was appointed chief executive of Broward Health, the association hosted an industry mixer for him, Quick said.
“He had the patience of a saint,” she recalled. “He stood at the receiving line, and spoke to every person that came — very charismatic.”
El Sanadi also addressed the group about his first impressions of the job.
“He spent a lot of time talking about the challenges that seemed new to him,” Quick said, “and among those were the still ongoing conversations with [federal regulators and investigators], and the difficulties with managed care, the obstinate state Legislature.
“I think it was not a total surprise,” she said, “but the fact that in this new role he was going to be expected to somehow or another solve these problems, as well as save individual patient lives, might have been a little bit of a stretch.”
El Sanadi’s family said they will announce funeral arrangements at a later date, a Broward Health spokesperson said.