The Jackson bond referendum -— why it matters for Blacks

JHS board chairman says “we must modernize our facilities”

D. Kevin McNeir | 10/17/2013, 9 a.m.
On Tuesday, Nov. 5th, registered voters of Miami-Dade County will have an important decision to make — whether they support ...

On Tuesday, Nov. 5th, registered voters of Miami-Dade County will have an important decision to make — whether they support a request from Jackson Health System [JHS] for the issuance of General Obligation Bonds not

exceeding $830M. According to the language on the ballot, JHS is asking the County to “fund modernization, improvement and equipping of JHS’s facilities, including but not limited to emergency rooms, children’s ambulatory pavilion and urgent care centers.”

Now, with less than three weeks before Election Day, JHS officials have their hands full, employing various forms of media to inform the public about how they would utilize the money —ultimately intending to illustrate to voters why a “yes” vote is both a sound and the best decision.

Darryl Sharpton, chairman of the board, JHS, says it’s essential that JHS modernize its facilities so that it can remain competitive with other hospitals. But he notes additional reasons as to how the bond would benefit the Black community.

“Jackson has been very good to our community; now it’s time to upgrade and update our facilities especially with our being the only community safety net hospital,” he said. “In lieu of the oncoming health care reform that is going on as a result of the Affordable Health Care Act, we have to position ourselves so that we can better compete with other hospitals. We have a mission to offer a single standard of care for all of Miami-Dade County and for anyone who enters our doors, regardless of income or ethnicity. We’re going to take you and give you a good physical outcome. We remain the only safety net hospital in the County and we have been darned good to people of color for many decades.”

One way that Jackson has been good to people of color, particularly Blacks, is through employment opportunities. Sharpton estimates that JHS employs some 9,000 workers — 4,000 of whom are nurses.

What you need to know about JHS

“We were recently chosen as the #1 health care provider in South Florida according to U.S. News and World Report and we are a major economic generator,” he said. “JHS is a multi-billion dollar entity that provides a plethora of jobs for professionals as well as vendors and other small businesses throughout the County. But a major factor to ensure our viability is to widen the net of patients and attract more fee-paying patients so that we can also continue serving those with lesser economic means.”

But what about Jackson’s recent history of economic problems?

“We all know that from 2006 to 2011, we had accumulated huge loses in excess of $400M — that meant we didn’t have the money to reinvest in improvements,” Sharpton said. “But we have been in the black for two straight years now and are forecasted to remain so in the foreseeable future. Even with the $830M, we’ll still need to invest between $50M and $100M annually so that our facilities won’t become run down again. Now is the moment that we have to move forward, expand our locations so more patients can access our services, replace outdated equipment and upgrade technology. As more people are able to sign up for the new health care programs, they’ll have a choice. If we aren’t ready, Jackson will lose patients and we’ll also lose revenue. Miami-Dade County cannot afford to let that happen. Just look at hospitals like Grady Memorial in Atlanta or Stroger [formerly Cook County] Hospital in Chicago. Blacks in those cities realized that they had to save those hospitals for all the right reasons. We have to do likewise.”