Keepin' the Rabble Out

The Sun-Sentinel goes off the record for trains and buses

It's a scary proposition. Delivering anesthesia is one of the most dangerous parts of any medical operation. Hallandale Beach nurse anesthetist Suzanne Oliver puts it succinctly: "If a patient doesn't wake up, it doesn't matter how successful the surgery is."

So why would state legislators want to let some Barnes & Noble clerk with a literature degree put patients to sleep? Just follow the money. It's a plum for Florida's anesthesiologists. No more need for those pesky, well-trained, $90-per-hour nurse anesthetists. And, heck, the docs can bill the insurance company the same amount -- even if the guy delivering anesthesia knows more about the Bronte sisters than the respiratory system.

And, of course, more money for rich doctors means more money for Republican legislators. Sen. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey and Rep. Bruce Kyle of Fort Myers aren't averse to taking anesthesiologist largess. Last year, both Republicans received campaign contributions of $500, the legal limit, from the Florida Society of Anesthesiologists' Political Action Committee. In what Tailpipe can only assume is a coincidence, Fasano and Kyle sponsored the bills allowing anesthesia assistants in the Senate and House, respectively.

Ol' Brown Eyes can still do it, bambino.
Ol' Brown Eyes can still do it, bambino.

In 2003, the Florida Society of Anesthesiologists' PAC contributed $27,250; $19,000 alone went to the state Republican Party. Since the 1998 election cycle, the PAC has contributed $108,000 to mostly Republican candidates. And that figure doesn't include individual donations made by the state's doctors and anesthesia groups. During that same period, the PAC representing the state's nurse anesthetists contributed a meager $29,447, which was split almost evenly between Republican and Democratic legislators.

"This bill was greased from the beginning," Oliver says.

They killed a pig the other day. Punched its lights out. The pig and its kin had lived for 51 years by the side of the road in unincorporated Broward County. Every year, the ever-encroaching sprawl of State Road 7 crept closer, until, the other day, it caught up with the Georgia Pig Barbecue mascot.

Broward County zoning officials made the landmark barbecue joint take down its porcine cutie-pie. That's right, the big, red, neon pig playing a fiddle is gone. "The man" has been after the Georgia Pig for years, owner JoAnn Anderson says. "Pole signs" have fallen from favor with the county, though towering over Anderson's store is a 40-foot billboard, as pleasing to the eye as a rhino's backside.

Anderson gives a dispirited shrug. "It's not worth it to have to put 'em up just to take 'em down," she says. "You can't fight city hall, it seems like."

If your March Madness brackets were rubble after the tournament's first weekend, take heart: At least your lint-brained picks weren't delivered to doorsteps across South Florida.

Of all the local newspaper scribes who weighed in with pretournament predictions, the worst was Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, who shanked three of his four upset specials and predicted a Final Four -- Mississippi State, Pittsburgh, Stanford, and Gonzaga -- that produced only one team, Pitt, of the Sweet Sixteen.

"They're terrible picks," acknowledged Spencer, who covers the Marlins but, as a Lexington, Kentucky, native, fancies himself a hardwood swami. "What happened was, Mike Redmond, a catcher for the Marlins, went [to Gonzaga], and he touted me on Gonzaga, and it really screwed me up. So I'm blaming him."

Spencer is philosophical. "I had a bad year picking things. During the (baseball) playoffs, I picked the Giants to win in four, then the Cubs to win in six, so I lost both of those; those were in the paper. We got to New York and David Samson, the president of the Marlins, asked me who my pick was. I told him, 'Yankees in seven.' He goes, 'Yes!'"

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