St. Pete City Council should approve deal between Bayfront and HMA

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The Saint Petersburg City Council should recognize the proposed partnership between Bayfront Medical Center and the hospital chain Health Management Associates will strengthen Bayfront and Pinellas County health care.

The council is scheduled Thursday to make the final decision on the deal because Bayfront is on city land. The proposal is contingent upon council approving a 50-year lease for a nominal fee.

Because Naples-based Health Management Associates is a for-profit company, skeptics have questioned whether it would be as dedicated to charity care as the nonprofit Bayfront.

But executives with both operations argue persuasively that by strengthening Bayfront’s financial health, the partnership will improve treatment for the poor.

Bayfront can hardly expand charity treatment if its financial situation continues to deteriorate. It has been scraping by on tiny margins and will sustain an expected 5 percent operating loss for 2012.

Joining with a company that has 22 Florida facilities and 71 in the nation will immediately change its outlook.

Alan Levine, HMA Florida division president, says simply the savings achieved on supply purchases alone should be 5 percent.

Bayfront also should benefit from the consolidation of certain operations and the sharing of medical and technology expertise with other HMA facilities.

This arrangement will make Bayfront the flagship hospital of a new HMA regional network that will stretch from Venice to Brooksville and include six medical centers. Because of the HMA connection, Bayfront will become a clinical-educational partner with the University of Florida’s Shands Hospital in Gainesville.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.