South Florida Hospital News
Thursday January 18, 2018
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August 2007 - Volume 4 - Issue 2

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SFHHA Leader Seeks to Enhance Efforts to Resolve Healthcare Issues

Ask for his pet peeve about the way the delivery of medicine has changed and C. Kennon (Ken)

Hetlage is quick to offer an answer. And the response offers insight into Hetlage’s goals as chairman of the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association.

"The delivery of care has become much more fractionalized and uncoordinated," Hetlage, chief executive officer of Memorial Hospital West in Pembroke Pines, said.

"Primary care physicians have been forced to see unrealistically high volumes because of lower reimbursements," he continued. "Hospitalists that may not be familiar with the patient follow the hospitalized patient; specialists are increasingly subspecialized and all of this contributes to a more disjointed approach to care."

Hetlage, as the SFHHA’s Board leader, strives to enhance the value that the Association’s members receive through their membership by having the organization serve as a liaison with local government and regulatory agencies and become a better source for information and services that affect them. Specific examples include the second annual SFHHA Summit, Solutions for South Florida’s Healthcare System, lobbying activities in Tallahassee in favor of PIP (Personal Injury Protection) and advocacy with local EMS providers.

One of the primary difficulties hospitals are facing, Hetlage emphasized, is in securing subspecialty coverage for emergency departments.

"I believe it’s less an exodus than it is a recruitment issue," Hetlage said of the decline in numbers of physicians. "We’re not seeing as many leaving as just not wanting to relocate into Florida. We must address medical practice costs through tort reforms and address, or provide better clarification of, the ‘three strikes’ rule under which a doctor can lose his license if he has three malpractice judgments."

He also cited the extremely rapid growth in the cost of living contributing - along with hurricanes - to the exodus of nurses and other hospital staff from South Florida and making recruitment of new physicians more difficult. In addition to the cost of a house, Hetlage said, the rapid growth in real estate costs has sparked an increase in real estate taxes. Plus, the active 2005 hurricane season caused the cost of insurance to double and, in some cases, rise even more.

The Association also is working to ensuring adequate reimbursement from managed care, Medicaid and Medicaid.

"Ensuring fair and equitable distribution of Medicaid funds means including monitoring Medicaid reform implementation and opposing further Medicaid funding cuts," he said. "We also must have increased funding for children’s healthcare by lifting caps on Kidcare and fully funding the immunization program."

In addition, Hetlage said, the SFHHA will pursue funding for the Guardian Advocate program in Dade County and supports funding of state trauma centers and post traumatic rehabilitation.

In the area of liability and insurance, the Association supports re-authorization of mandatory Personal Injury Protection for motorists; legislative efforts to make available property, windstorm and business interruption insurance for healthcare facilities, and backing the Florida Hospital Association in its tort reform initiatives.

On other issues, the SFHHA:

  • Opposes the elimination of Certificate of Need regulations.
  • Encourages legislation and appropriations that support a coordinate response to terrorist acts and natural disasters.
  • Opposes increases to "mandatory benefits" and "any willing provider legislation.
  • Opposes legislation mandating staffing ratios; supports initiatives facilitating qualified foreign trained healthcare professionals, and encourages additional funding for recruiting and training of healthcare professionals.
The Association also works with such other health groups as the Florida Hospital Association and the American Hospital Association in seeking solutions. Most recently, Linda Quick, president of the SFHHA attended the Regional Policy Board meeting of the AHA. In addition, the South Florida group also works closely with medical societies in each county, Hetlage said.

The SFHHA has 156 members, 51 of which are hospitals including seven healthcare systems.

Looking ahead, Hetlage doesn’t see a dearth of challenges for hospitals and health care.

"We will be addressing patient safety through the implementation of processes and technology designed to prevent medical errors," he said. "Patient safety will continue to be a top priority in our profession."

Hetlage also cited establishment of a sustainable national healthcare model that "ensures universal coverage of the uninsured and underinsured" as a main challenge. Others include adequate reimbursement, medical liability and tort reform and workforce shortages (particularly physicians and nurses).

As for the question of government regulations getting in the way of hospitals’ abilities to do that they exit to do – provide skilled and quality care for their patients – he said that does apply "in some cases – like the restriction on the financial relationships between hospitals and physicians" but in other cases, "No."

"The challenges are not new," Hetlage said. "And we will continue to pursue solutions. According to the American Society of Association Executives, organizations like ours can only survive and thrive if we develop and implement programs that meet our members’ needs and, more important, the needs of our patients and our communities."

For more information, contact Linda Quick, President, South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association, at (954) 964-1660 or lquick@sfhha.com.
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