Miami Beach

A skeletal hospital just imploded. It wasn’t always so grim

Watch the demolition of the former South Shore Hospital in Miami Beach

The skeleton of the South Shore Hospital was demolished Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at the corner of 6th Street and Alton Road in Miami Beach, Florida.
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The skeleton of the South Shore Hospital was demolished Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at the corner of 6th Street and Alton Road in Miami Beach, Florida.

About a decade after it died, a vacant hospital was imploded in a heap of dust this week.

In its heyday, South Shore Hospital was filled with the elderly who lived on South Beach. It was one of four hospitals in the city of Miami Beach. Only one remains: Mount Sinai Medical Center.

The South Shore property will now be developed. Through the Miami Herald archives, here is a look at the hospital when it was filled with people on the mend.

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South Shore Hospital Miami Herald File


Published June 14, 1987

South Shore Hospital and Medical Center is renovating and expanding its emergency room in an attempt to bring in new business — especially from young families who are fast replacing the elderly on South Beach.

The expansion, scheduled to be finished by November, will double the number of beds available for emergency services at the South Beach Hospital. It also will add space for less expensive “convenience care” to serve people who need minor medical help on weekends or don’t want to take a day off work to see a doctor.

“The community needs more emergency department care,” said South Shore’s executive director, William Zubkoff. “There’s also a need for convenience care. People who have upper respiratory infections shouldn’t have to wait in line behind 12 gunshot wounds.”

The move is a good way to compete for new Medicaid dollars, said Chris Hildner, director of planning for the Health Council of South Florida. Recent changes in Medicaid have increased the number of people who are eligible.

“It makes very good sense, because people have a need for this,” Hildner said. “It’s good business as much as anything. It brings in paying customers.”

The hospital’s emergency room serves about 30 patients a day. By the fall, that number may increase to as many as 100 a day, Zubkoff said.

Doctors also will be able to treat children who have swallowed quarters or adults with bad colds at rates lower than those for emergency services, said assistant hospital administrator Mary Natiello.

Eventually, the emergency room will include pediatric services, she said. The hospital decided to make the changes after concluding that its most visible service — the emergency room — was not attractive enough, Natiello said. South Shore will spend $300,000 to renovate the first floor of its 10-story wing at Fifth Street and Alton Road.

“There is a declining patient base, and we’re all battling for it,” Natiello said. “But we want to make it as pleasant as possible for people.”

The first floor now houses the hospital pharmacy. Emergency services are based in South Shore’s older three-story wing next door. The two services will switch places when the renovation is complete. The change doesn’t require state approval because it involves less than $760,495 and does not include a new type of service, Hildner said.

Caridad Baez is helped into her bed in the hospital’s telemetry unit. Miami Herald File


Published May 7, 1987

The young use the waiting rooms at Stanley Myers Community Health Center. The old go to a nearby branch office, where the doctor still speaks Yiddish and there are no crying children.

For years, since South Beach’s population changed from predominantly Jewish elderly to a majority of young Hispanics, the two groups have gone their separate ways, at least in seeking health care. By the end of the year, that should change.

The federally funded health center at 621 Washington Ave. plans to move into new offices at South Shore Medical Center, where there will be separate waiting rooms for young and old. With the move will come a dramatic expansion in staff and services, said Beverly Press, the center’s director.

The Myers center, which serves 3,000 to 4,000 patients a year, will add a dozen staff members, as well as labs and classrooms. The center now has 28 employees.

“We’re absolutely ecstatic,” said Press. “We’ve been working on this for two years now.”

Press expects the center’s patient population to double within two years after the move.

“The need is greater than any of us realize out there,” Press said. “And it’s spreading.”

Money for the renovation was promised a year ago, Press said. It wasn’t available until two months ago, when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finally approved $350,000 to pay for renovations to what are now warehouses and a loading dock at South Shore.

The county allocated another $425,000 for the project. Before the renovations begin, the center needs city approval to enclose a loading dock within the hospital’s setback area.

The Myers center will pay South Shore $82,500 a year to lease 15,000 square feet. In addition to a waiting room for the elderly, the new center will include separate waiting rooms for sick babies, healthy ones and a main waiting room.

There will be 12 examining rooms and two classrooms for health education, Press said. Metro’s Women and Infant Care office will also have an office there.

The federal government has promised to increase the center’s budget to pay for a full-time obstetrician- gynecologist, a dentist, a dental assistant and a dental hygienist, a lab director and technician and two more medical assistants, as well as extra administrative staff, Press said. As a result, fewer patients will be referred to Jackson Memorial Hospital, she said.

Clients will no longer have to wait three months or more for a dental checkup. The branch office at 533 Collins Ave., where elderly residents can still see a Yiddish-speaking doctor three times a week, will remain open, Press said.

Ida Lubow had a surprise birthday party at South Shore Hospital where she is a volunteer. Miami Herald File


Published July 16, 1998

As herds of people flock to Miami Beach, more and more of them end up in area hospitals — a trend that often taxes the services of doctors and nurses. South Shore Hospital and Medical Center, 630 Alton Rd., recognizes this problem and has an answer — expansion.

The hospital’s Wound Healing Center is increasing its staff, and the recently established podiatric medical residency — a program for graduate doctors of podiatry medicine, mainly from Barry University — is also in the process of expansion.

“The South Shore Hospital is a community teaching hospital,” said Gerald Schwartz, executive vice chairman of the board of trustees at South Shore Hospital. “We’re a not-for-profit, charity hospital and also the largest employer of South Beach. These expansion programs are self-sufficient. They’re helpful for the hospital because more medical personnel are on duty around the clock.”

The expansion programs bring with them some new faces. Dr. Mirta Hernandez, a graduate of the University of Florida, and Dr. Jason Evans, a graduate of the University of Toledo, are new residents at the hospital. Both also are graduates of Barry University.

The hospital is going through many changes for the future, but its past is still being remembered and celebrated. South Shore was established in 1968 by the late Claude Pepper, who envisioned it as a premiere hospital for geriatric patients. At the time, a majority of the population in Miami Beach was elderly.

“Claude Pepper was a champion for the elderly,” said Schwartz.

At present, a majority of the Wound Healing Center’s patients are elderly, but the staff is seeing more young patients of various ethnic backgrounds.

Affiliations with the University of Miami School of Medicine and with Miami Children’s Hospital have also been developed. Despite the many changes, the hospital’s mission remains the same. “The South Shore Hospital and Medical Center strive for excellence in medical care, treatment, education and research — with our main emphasis on treatment,” Schwartz said.

Erick Dorestil who lost control of his car east bound on the McAurthur causeway and crashed through the guardrail into Biscayne Bay in his hospital room at South Shore Hospital visited by his boss Rodolfo Tomarchio, and son Rodolfo Jr, Erick works at the Colony Hotel on the beach. Peter Andrew Bosch


Published March 22, 2007

Fifteen years ago, Miami Beach had four hospitals to serve a huge senior population. Now a much younger city is down to one, Mount Sinai, which is using less than half its licensed beds, and an expert is questioning whether the island needs another facility.

The debate involves the boarded-up South Beach Community Hospital, formerly known as South Shore. Battered by accusations of fraud and cut off from Medicare payments, it has been closed for more than a year.

Many windows on one of its buildings are still covered with plywood caused by damage from Hurricane Wilma in 2005. The hospital, which was licensed by the state for 196 beds, is in bankruptcy court. In November, a group led by heart surgeon David Galbut agreed to purchase the South Beach license for $2.4 million in a bankruptcy proceeding, but before the deal can be finalized the buyers needed approval from state regulators for a license transfer.

Twice the state turned them down. On Feb. 28, the two-year license ran out.

“This license expired, and it should no longer be an issue,” says Steven D. Sonenreich, chief of executive at Mount Sinai, which has more than enough capacity to meet all of the Beach’s needs. Linda Quick, president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association, agrees.

“There are probably better uses for the property than attempting to resurrect a failing institution. At least the last three owners of that license have had significant difficulty in operating an in-patient facility, and I can’t envision anyone else doing better at it.” Galbut did not return a call, and a lawyer representing him declined comment, as did the bankruptcy trustee and the trustee’s attorney.

The fortunes of South Beach are emblematic of the difficulties of local hospitals. At least 14 of them lost money in 2005, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration.

“Some are having to adjust to changing demographics,” says Quick. Founded in the 1960s with the help of Rep. Claude Pepper to serve the elderly who then dominated South Beach, the hospital’s finances declined as seniors died off and were replaced by a much younger crowd attracted to the revived Art Deco area.

In 2002, the hospital agreed to pay $937,000 to settle claims it overbilled Medicare. The facility defaulted on bonds in 2003 and was found to be in violation of state law by not having the required liability insurance.

In 2004, a real estate company led by Russell Galbut, brother of the heart surgeon, purchased the hospital’s buildings and land for $35 million but left the operating license in the hands of its administrators.

In December 2005, federal officials blasted those administrators for “repeated and egregious failure” to live up to its agreement to guard against overbilling and took the rare step of saying the facility could not receive Medicare payments for the next five years.

The hospital closed in February 2006.

Twice in the past several months, state regulators have rejected change-of-ownership applications from the prospective buyers, reports AHCA spokeswoman Shelisha C. Durden. One reason was that the buyers hadn’t proved they had the required liability coverage.

A third application for license renewal, filed by Alan Goldberg, the trustee in bankruptcy proceedings, is still pending. Earlier this month, the buyers and trustee filed a joint emergency motion in the bankruptcy case complaining about “arbitrary, capricious” actions by AHCA to delay granting a renewal and transfer of the license, which is the debtor’s main asset. They asked the federal magistrate to order AHCA to process the application “in good faith.”

That motion was later withdrawn, as AHCA agreed to continue discussions with Goldberg about transfering the license. If AHCA agreed that the license had expired, the bankrupt hospital would have essentially no assets to satisfy creditors, and anyone wanting to reopen the hospital would have to go through a complete certificate-of-need application, a difficult process that would require new owners to show that the area truly needed a hospital.

The skeleton of the South Shore Hospital during its demolition at the corner of Sixth Street and Alton Road in Miami Beach, FL, on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. Daniel A. Varela