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Agreement between Jackson, UM approved

Erick Johnson | 5/22/2014, 9 a.m.

Despite lingering concerns over losing patients to the University of Miami (UM), the Jackson Health System renewed the partnership’s annual operating agreement last Thursday in a meeting with board members and County Commissioners.

The agreement would allow UM to provide doctors and medical services to Miami-Dade's network of public hospitals. Under the agreement, Jackson will pay UM $117.4 million through May 2015, $3 million more than last year.

As in year's past, the agreement raised concerns about complaints that UM, a private institution was referring patients away from Jackson, the county's largest public hospital that was close to bankruptcy last year after losing hundreds of millions of dollars in the past decade.

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Darryl Sharpton

Despite concerns, most Jackson Board members voted to renew the agreement after one Public Health Trust member, Marcos Lapciuc, blasted the contract as “horrendous for Jackson.”

Lapciuc said with more better services and patient facilities at UM, the deal prevents Jackson from attracting more paying patients, which is why voters approved an $830 million bond referendum to upgrade the aging hospital.

Lapciuc, a past Jackson board chairman, accused UM of taking lucrative services out of Jackson while also steering insured patients away from the public hospitals and into UM’s private hospital across the street in Miami’s Civic Center.

“The University of Miami made a deliberate and conscious decision to strip Jackson out of five, high-volume Medicare lines to rip them out of Jackson and send them to their hospital,” Lapciuc said.

Lapciuc said UM doctors have been referring patients in need of cardiology, urology, orthopedics, oncology and pulmonology services to UM Hospital, the 560-bed former Cedars Medical Center that the university bought in 2007 for $275 million, which has been a lingering source of friction between the institutions.

Joe Arriola, the board's vice chairman and Lapciuc have expressed their displeasure in the past over Jackson’s relationship with UM, with both men accusing the university of acting more like a competitor than a partner.

Miami-Dade District 3 Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, questioned board members on why Jackson does not provide the same medical services as UM.

“We are a top hospital. We help train them, we should keep them. We should be able to sustain ourselves.”

“This is a healthy discussion,” said Darryl Sharpton, Jackson's board chairman. “Arguing is not going to resolve this issue at hand.”

Pascal Goldschmidt, a physician and dean of UM’s Miller School of Medicine since 2006, was optimistic about the agreement.

“We diligently, and very carefully kept our eyes on the future of this institution, the future of this community, to make sure that, together, the nurses, the staff, the doctors preserve the quality of care that we provide,” Goldschmidt said.

But the latest agreement between the institutions ensures fair market value for services, and contains performance measures and transparency, which were lacking from past contracts, Arriola said Thursday.

UM provides more than 90 percent of the physicians who staff Jackson Memorial’s emergency rooms, trauma center, burn unit and other departments. UM faculty physicians also are paid to teach the hundreds of Jackson-paid medical residents.

But without Miami-Dade’s publicly-owned hospitals, which have sovereign immunity that restricts lawsuits against the government, UM could not feasibly pursue cutting-edge medicine — from organ transplants to spinal surgeries to trauma, all based at Jackson.