Is there a doctor in this house?
Sunday's Sun-Sentinel had a long piece on the turmoil at the North Broward Hospital District. To some readers, the article did not make any sense, but that is not the fault of the newspaper. It was simply quoting various players in this saga, at least those willing to be quoted and not hiding from the public eye. And those quoted were the ones who in several cases were not making any sense. They did not know what to say, or as it appeared, could not remember what they were supposed to say.
In one particularly absurd case, a commissioner claimed he was misquoted in a letter he wrote himself.
It was obvious that string pullers were at work. A prominent national public relations firm, one that has people working out of Tallahassee on various issues in which Gov. Rick Scott has an interest, was mentioned in the piece. The fact that the firm was even involved tells you a lot about the machinations going on with the hospital district.
For an outsider, it is hard to tell who is right or wrong, but one thing is obvious. The hospital district board is one appointed by Scott, and key positions at the district’s hospitals are affected by the board’s decisions. One gets the impression that some of the political appointees are solid citizens. But others appear incompetent, at least judging by their public utterances and behavior. And, amid layers of investigations, with investigators seemingly investigating each other, there is the hand of Scott, confusing the issue by removing key board members—the ones who appear to be most able—and approving a state investigation, which only adds to the chaos.
One can almost hear the conversations.
“Commissioner, you’re fired.”
“You can’t fire me, you have no authority. In fact, I’m firing you. Clean out your office.”
“I don’t have an office. Besides, I fired you first. Be gone, or I’ll have security escort you out.”
“I’ll have the police arrest security if you do.”
“I’ll have the FBI arrest the police.”
“I’ll bring in the 101st Airborne to handle the FBI.”
“I have friends in ISIS. They’ll cut people’s heads off.”
Behind all this nonsense is the underlying problem that the district has always been political. And some prominent doctors have been under a cloud over contracts. But at least no one can question the doctors’ competence. They are among the best in their fields—annually listed in Gold Coast magazine’s Top Docs feature, which comes up next month. You can hardly say the same for the political types who oversee them.
And now we have a powerful PR group repeating a tactic we have already seen at work in a more important venue. Scott filled the South Florida Water Management District with political hacks, few of whom had any background to justify their positions. Those people perverted the public’s intention in approving Amendment One, to provide money to buy U.S. Sugar land south of Lake Okeechobee to cleanse polluted water and end the disastrous discharges from the lake, which destroy the estuaries on both coasts.
You see the letters appearing in newspapers, reeking of a PR spin, saying the money was well spent on other projects relating to the environment. Those letter writers claim to represent the interest of the poor farmers around the lake (poor like in giant sugar corporations) and portray the critics of Big Sugar, The Everglades Foundation and other environmental groups, as representing “special interests”—such as the people of South Florida.
You see the same thing happening on a local scale with the hospital district. The difference is that Big Sugar’s spinners know enough not to misquote themselves.