What the Tampa Bay Times doesn’t tell you about the debate over trauma care in Florida

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After reading — again — the Times coverage of all 37 legislators’ responses to its trauma survey, one conclusion is clear: the Times has gone to great lengths to create news; the embarrassingly low response rate to its survey is just one example – and highlighting HCA’s profitability, lobbyists, influence and power in Tallahassee as rationale for the Legislature seemingly coming under its spell, its coverage fails to provide any insight into the same data for HCA’s competitors. With this information, readers could draw their own conclusions.

This drumbeat of biased reporting by the Times is causing many in Tallahassee to scratch our heads and ask more questions. Is this what a quest for a Pulitzer Prize looks like? Will the distinguished judges on the juries really reward this one-sided advocacy, err, coverage with their coveted award? Only time will tell.

Since the Times hasn’t bothered to ask the same questions about HCA’s competitors nor presented this information to the public, I have gone ahead and done it.  It paints a very different picture than what the Times is depicting. 

QUESTION: How much money is Shands-UF, Tampa General and St. Josephs’ making? How does that compare to HCA’s hospitals?

ANSWER: Shands-UF net revenue at $1.16 billion in 2012 is five times larger than Ocala Regional ($222M in 2012). Tampa General had 2012 net revenues of $988 million and St. Joseph’s 2012 net revenue was $775 million compared to $183 million at Blake and $175 million at Bayonet Point (approximately 4-5 times larger). This according to audited financial statements from 2012 filed with the state. 

QUESTION: With the approval of the state’s newest trauma centers has the net income of Shands-UF, Tampa General or St. Joseph’s taken a hit?

ANSWER: NO. Shands-UF Net Income was $71.2 million compared to $15.5 million at Ocala Regional. Tampa General Net Income was $51 million and St Josephs was $103 million compared to $19.6 million at Blake and $19.7 million at Bayonet Point. This according to audited financial statements from 2012 filed with the state.  

QUESTION: How many lobbyists do Florida’s not-for-profit hospitals have?  What about the Safety Net Alliance?

ANSWER:

  • In addition, 16 lobbyists are registered to lobby the Florida Legislature on behalf of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida in 2014.  
  • For the record, the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida spent $455,000 lobbying the Legislature in 2013.  

QUESTION: How do these hospitals’ political donations stack up? The State Legislature? 

ANSWER:

  • The above-mentioned hospitals and their employees make tens of thousands of dollars of political donations each year.  
  • Before disbanding in 2013, members of the Safety Net Health Care Alliance CCE reported more than $172,700 in expenditures to state candidates and committees since 2008. 
  • The Committee of Safety Net Hospitals of Florida reported at least $93,500 in expenditures to state candidates and Committees since November 2013. 

QUESTION:  Looking at hospital executive compensation, what does Shands-UF, Tampa General, and St. Joseph’s, and Bayfront’s executive compensation look like?

ANSWER: Compensation for these hospital executives has been high and climbing for several years.

  • In 2010, Tampa General’s CEO made over $2.7 million, according to Tampa General’s IRS Form 990 from 2010;
  • In 2010 and 2011, the CEO of Shands Teaching Hospital made well over $1 million, according to Shands Teaching Hospital’s IRS Form 990 from 2010 and its IRS Form 990 from 2011;
  • In 2011, President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Hospital made over $1.4 million, according to St. Joseph’s Hospital’s IRS Form 990 from 2011;
  • In 2011 the CEO of BayCare (St. Joseph’s parent company) made over $3.1 million, according to BayCare Health System’s IRS form 990 from 2011.

Here is the crux of the matter:  the fight over trauma care in Florida is far from new. Many of the hospital systems with trauma centers, which have not been part of the Times’ witch-hunt, have long claimed that the presence of new trauma centers would cause them to lose money.  They also whine that they are “poor” non-profits and don’t have the resources to defend themselves.

However, looking at their financials, CEO pay, and the small army of lobbyists they have signed up to do their bidding in Tallahassee, it’s clear they are neither poor nor defenseless.

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.