The UM Hospital (Or)Deal

John DeGroot gives us the background facts on the University of Miami's purchase of Cedar's Medical Center. In short, he suggests, based on the numbers, that UM is buying itself a right big boondoggle.

And this time he tees off on another newspaper instead of the old punching bag down at 200 East Las Olas.

Here's DeGroot:

There’s a fat red line between lazy and stupid in journalism – as illustrated by the Miami Herald’s coverage of the Cedar’s Medical Center by the University of Miami.

Or, as Boll Moyer once said, “Journalists too often are asked to write about things they don’t understand.”

Anyhow, where to begin?

First, the Herald’s John Dorschner rolled over and played dead by allowing the University of Miami (as a non profit corporation and the beneficiary of a ton of local support) to refuse to reveal the price it paid for the 560-bed for profit hospital located next to Jackson Memorial – while the Sun-Sentinel set the price at “$250 million or up.”

Now, while the above might seem a tad “inside baseball” picky, consider how… - Less than a year ago, the tax supported South Broward Hospital district paid $32 million for the 324-bed Hollywood Medical Center (roughly $100,000 per bed) - While the University of Miami’s medical school board has voted to pay (if the Sentinel’s numbers are right) $250 million-plus for the 560-bed Cedars (roughly $450,000 per bed).

So. What’s with THAT price spread?

Donors to the University of Miami’s school of medicine might like to know. While others might ponder the degree of due diligence and fiduciary responsibility on the part of the medical school’s board in voting to purchase Cedars for that kind of money.

But the numbers get worse – or at least, more odd and puzzling According to Dorschner, Jackson Memorial is “cash strapped” and Cedars “has been steadily profitable.”

Which is horseshit! Based on the latest from Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration ACHA, “cash strapped” Jackson Memorial was THE most profitable hospital in Miami-Dade last year – earning a humongous “bottom line” profit of some $188 million. And as to Cedars being “steadily profitable” in recent years, consider the following numbers from AHCA:

Cedars’ “Bottom Line” Profits 2004 - $20,060,231 2005 - $15,033,740 2006 - $987,254

Now, if that’s Dorschner’s idea of “steadily profitable,” one can only hope his wife handles the family checkbook.

More to the point, the staggering downward

trend in Cedar’s recent “bottom line” profits raises even more due diligence and fiduciary responsibility questions about the medical school board at “The U.”

Not that the “bottom lined” profits earned by the University of Miami’s currently owned and operated 40-bed hospital and clinic are all that bad. Again, based on latest from AHCA, “The U’s” modest hospital and clinic netted: “Bottom Line” Profits 2004 - $2,914,769 2005 - $6,493,336 2006 - $17,473,776

Which is pretty damn good money for a 40-bed “non profit” hospital clinic that averaged 36 empty beds a day last year.

Okay. Maybe I’m way too picky and overly obsessed with the “inside baseball” aspects of “The U’s” $250 million-plus hospital deal. However. Somehow and somewhere, there just may be a story buried in all the numbers and details that both the Herald and the Sun-Sentinel missed in covering “The U’s” mega hospital deal.

Trouble is, the University of Miami might refuse to talk about it. Which might pose a very, very vexing problem for the Herald’s Dorschner – especially given the historic relationship between the newspaper’s nose and “The U’s” posterior.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman