You know, no matter many how many times you watch it happen, it’s always an ugly spectacle.
When a safety-net hospital goes under because, well, being a safety net costs a ton, the poor are left with less than nothing. Worse, along the way, the hospital often slips from being an inelegant but functional resource to a nasty, scary place you wouldn’t send your worst enemy.
I was truly sorry to read that Jackson Memorial Hospital of Miami — a sprawling, 1,550-bed campus which still houses outstanding programs like the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and the Ryder Trauma Center — seems to be moving rapidly from quick to dead.
The giant public entity, which serves as the primary teaching hospital for the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has faced plenty of controversy of its time, including accusations that some of its poor clientele were allowed to die for lack of followup care. That, of course, is an extremely serious matter.
But for most of its life, Jackson did at least offer the roughly 650,000 uninsured of Miami-Dade county an alternative to going into hock in the pricey EDs run by its competitors. It went through a colorful string of outspoken leaders, none of which seemed to share the same vision for the place, faced lawsuits and immigration issues and politics galore, but continued to stay afloat.
Those days, it seems, are over. According to a recent Miami Herald article, the Jackson Health System lost $337 million over two years, despite taking in $350 million a year from sales and property tax revenue alone.
This week, the system announced that it was hiring new leaders to step into the top administrative roles at JHS. But in a system where its own employees refuse to get their care on site, I get the feeling that “changing deck chairs on the Titanic” covers things. What a shame.