Broward News

Paging Doctor Footinmouth

For much of the past week since the May 27 meeting of the North Broward Hospital District Board of Commissioners, Juice has been trying to reach the doctor who offered that meeting's most fascinating testimony.

Dr. Richard Glick's remarks seemed to illustrate exactly how entrenched is the local health care system's tradition of paying favors to those who know the right people.

Glick has not returned several calls seeking comment. Perhaps because someone has told him that in seeking to defend his friend Commissioner Joseph Cobo against allegations of ethical misconduct, the doctor very nearly implicated the commissioner in a new charge. Yesterday it was revealed that the Broward State Attorney has opened a criminal investigation of Cobo.

But Glick didn't know that last week, and the doctor began his statement in a fashion similar to all the others who would speak that morning, bemoaning what he called the "false allegations made against an honest and decent man."

Then Glick looked within his own experience for an episode that would illustrate these estimable qualities. He said, "In early February, I received a call from (CEO of Imperial Point Medical Center) Calvin Glidewell about the lease for my office. He had decided not to renew my lease."

With this preamble, it could be safely said that dread filled the room. Glick appeared oblivious. He described how another tenant in his building, "Dr. (Kenneth) Farrell suggested I speak with Commissioner Cobo. I was given an appointment -- " and right then, just as it was about to get good, board chairman Mike Fernandez cut Glick off. The doctor had reached his allotted three minutes. There were many speakers left, said Fernandez, and would Glick kindly wrap up his statement? The doctor abandoned his story, added a few perfunctory remarks about his faith in Cobo and then disappeared into the crowd.

Though Glick never phoned back, I spoke yesterday afternoon with Dr. Farrell, who finished the story Glick had begun.

Farrell describes the same predicament, saying that Glidewell had not given Glick a good explanation for why the hospital was not renewing his lease. "When that happens, it's catastrophic," explained Farrell, who said of Glick, "He was almost in tears. He wanted to know if there were any kind of appeals he could make. I didn't know the CEO (of the hospital district), but I knew Cobo. I told him 'This is the only name I know.'"

So Glick phoned Cobo. "He put him in contact with (Broward Health CEO Frank) Nask, and eventually it got straightened out," said Farrell.

Did Cobo argue Glick's case to the Broward Health CEO? "I think so," answered Farrell.

Indeed, if Cobo had not argued that case there would seem to be little reason for Glick to pay his gratitude at last week's meeting.

Problem is, Cobo is not allowed to advocate for Broward Health physicians. The hospital charter expressly forbids a commissioner from involving himself individually in the management of the district. If Cobo questioned and successfully reversed the managerial decision by Glidewell, the commissioner broke that rule.

I told Farrell this, and he was flabbergasted. "This is my 35th year in district hospitals," said Farrell. "I consider what happened here a very normal thing. It has to be this way. They (commissioners) have to know what's going on."

To be clear, it does not appear that either Glick or Farrell did anything wrong. Rather, they appear to have been socialized in a culture where the governor's appointed commissioners act like elected representatives who intercede for constituents seeking a favored policy. But as the commissioners' own web page explains, their task is to govern the health care district based on a dispassionate calculation about what's best for the community at large. As such, they must be insulated from being lobbied by a single health care provider.  

If Farrell is right that the district has always operated in the fashion that Cobo is accused of, then one can imagine how arbitrary it seems to Cobo that he is the one commissioner singled out for an investigation that now has jumped into the criminal courts. He may have a point. All the same, he should have known his own district's charter. And by applying for a public office in the same field as his private practice, he took the risk

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Thomas Francis