'Broward Health' Czar Levine Sets Pulp Straight

Before I get to Broward Health (former North Broward Health District) CEO Alan Levine's email to the Pulp, let me share a couple of odds and ends. First, some former reporter is claiming that the Pulp is violating his copyright for the title "Notes From The Corporate Underground" for a May 29 post that included Bob Gremillion's farewell email to the Sun-Sentinel staff when he went off to become a master and commander of Big American Media. Here's what the guy, Stan Sewitch, wrote:

Your use of the blog title "Notes from the (Corporate) Underground" is a violation of my copyright for the title "Notes from the Corporate Underground", which is the title of my newspaper column in the San Diego Daily Transcript dating back to 2002, and also the title of my book published in 2005. Please cease using this blog title.

Please contact me if you have any questions.

Thank you,

Stan Sewitch
CEO
HRG / KI Investment Holdings, LLC

Needless to say I'd never heard of this extremely obscure book, but sure enough, here's the Amazon page. I want to tell Stan to take his Kenpo-practicing, Chang Ba-playing ass and jump in San Diego Bay. We're both ripping off Dostoevsky, after all, though I seriously doubt ol' Fyodor would mind. But Stan, you anal little bastard, I'll forward this to the lawyers and see what they say.

And, as you might imagine, the Pulp gets tons of junk emails from companies trying to sell pills and penis enlargement systems (which are sometimes one in the same). They often have ridiculous content that is supposed to trick us into publishing them. Here's one from this morning: "Normanizations posting conservationist evolutes Czechoslovakia?"

That's all it says. Just thought I'd share on the chance it holds some key to unlocking the secrets of the universe. Now on to Alan Levine, the CEO of Broward Health. Yesterday I quickly dashed off a criticism of the North Broward Health District's name change to Broward Health. Levine, who was handpicked for the job by Jeb Bush, sent me an email to let me know he didn't agree. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Levine is a huge improvement and the district is in much better shape now than it ever has been. Still isn't perfect, though, and I still don't trust its dynastic ambition. Here's what Levine wrote:

Bob, I really would like to have the opportunity to talk with you about the strategic purpose for our name change. I can understand why you would advocate that we stick with our mission of caring for the poor, but there is a real problem with that if we try and do it in a vacuum without

effectively competing for compensated business. I can't speak to past attempts to compete, and won't try to defend them since they predated me and my current Board. But I do think its fair to point out that in the last 12 months, we have renegotiated contracts saving more than $26 million over the next five years - some of those contracts you have been critical of. There were several long-standing contracts/employment agreements we did not renew because we felt they were not producing positive financial results, and we have become more productive. So we are working on reducing our cost structure. In addition, we cut taxes again this year to the lowest level in 25 years. I would certainly understand if people criticized us for rebranding and raising taxes in the process. But while we are doing this, we are cutting taxes.

We have to engage in the marketplace every day with several excellent competitors. Good hospitals run by good management. Frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way. But to advocate we should only serve the poor would cost the taxpayers MORE, since the rate of uninsured continues to rise, as do the costs that go with it. If we don't improve our payor mix, then the only way to cover the increased cost of the uninsured would be to increase our resources extracted involuntarily by the taxpayer (tax increases) - something you know by now I am loath to do. In one year, I have twice asked my board for record tax cuts, which they have unanimously approved. By reducing our reliance on tax dollars, it forces us to be more competitive and more efficient. I want to continue this trend, but can't do so if we can't compete.

We are accountable to the public, and our competitors are not. Thus, making an otherwise wise business move like branding ourselves with a name more appropriate for a health care institution in a competitive environment, when holding a government lense to it, makes easy fodder for people who will say "oh look, they are wasting money". To the contrary...If you look south at Memorial, maybe they got criticized when they first changed their name and maybe they didn't, but today the Memorial name means something. It was a wise long-term investment. Clearly, changing the name alone doesn't mean anything if you don't match it with great services. That's why this year we invested in the world's leading cancer treatment (proton beam therapy), and two new ERs (coral springs medical center and imperial point medical center). That's also why our patient satisfaction at Broward General's ER this year has improved from 67% one year ago to as high as 94%. And the inpatient satisfaction at Coral Springs has improved every single month since January, going from 74% to 94% this month. Our pediatric sedation unit at Broward General is a finalist for the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organization's highest honor - the Coddman Award. Our stroke center at North Broward Medical Center was the first certified in south Florida. My point with all this is to say changing our name is not being done in a vacuum. It must go hand-in-hand with a commitment to improving ourselves all the time.

Changing our name is one piece of an overall strategy to improve Broward Health. As I look toward future demographics, what I see is flat growth in Broward, increasing uninsured, and more pressure (appropriately) to reduce taxes. So, our strategy can be one of two things: 1. We can become more competitive and improve our payor mix, or 2. we can allow the payor mix to continue deteriorating. I think the latter has its perils for the people who own Broward Health. I think the former, if not done properly, can certainly be a mistake. I made this recommendation to our Board, and I own the decision. I am not afraid of being accountable for it. It was truly made for the right reason, and its an investment I think will pay off.

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