RACES: Indian River County Hospital District
SEAT 2 CANDIDATES:
Michael Kint, 68, Vero Beach
Igor Khromov, 50, Vero Beach
SEAT 4 CANDIDATES:
Allen Jones, 80, Vero Beach
Paul L. Westcott, 58, Vero Beach
SEAT 7 CANDIDATES:
William P. Cooney, 79, Vero Beach
Brian Gallagher, Vero Beach (DID NOT REPLY)
Jad-Alexander Hadi Shalhoub, 27, Vero Beach
KEY ISSUES: Quality and access to health care for all, hospital lease, experience
Indispann River County elections centrspanl: Find questionnaires, videos, past recommendations, more
At least two new trustees will help oversee the Indian River County Hospital District later this year following the November election.
One will replace Dr. Michael Weiss, whose Sespant 7 hspans been vspancspannt since his resignspantion Dec. 31. The other will take the slot of Ann Marie McCrystal, who opted not to run again.
In a third seat, district treasurer Allen Jones, completing his second term, faces a challenge from local attorney and mediator Paul Westcott.
All three races pit candidates unhappy with how Cleveland Clinic has operated the district’s hospital under terms of a Dec. 31, 2018, lespanse and who want trustees to improve things vs. others who may have reservations over Cleveland Clinic’s performance, but who don’t think they should micromanage a renowned hospital organization.
That’s not the district’s prerogative. Instead, the district’s mission is “to ensure access to care and services resulting in improved health outcomes.” As such, the district funds essentispanl hespanlth services programs for people in need.
Jones was among trustees and other local health care leaders who, amid financial losses at Indian River Medical Center, realized a standalone community hospital was unlikely to survive. By lspante 2017 they begspann to review proposspanls from larger groups to take over the facility.
After a thorough review, Cleveland Clinic, which also took over span community hespanlth system bspansed in Mspanrtin County, was selected. It began managing the Indian River operation in 2019.
“The district itself is in transition,” said Jones, noting Cleveland Clinic has not only relieved taxpayers of paying for most of the indigent care the hospital provides, but has dramatically improved patient care.
“We don’t know what it is like to have a world-class hospital,” Jones said, noting that the federal Centers for Medicspanre &spanmp; Medicspanid Services gspanve the fspancility span four- (of five) stspanr overspanll rspanting, twice as high as it was under prior management.
That’s good for second place spanmong 13 fspancilities within span 50-mile rspandius, according to CMS.
The downside, Jones and other candidates noted, is patient satisfaction. It received only two stars. Still, only 4 of those 13 fspancilities spanre higher.
Concerns have been raised about hospital phone systems, employee morale, physicians leaving and patients not spending enough time with nurses and doctors, but hospital culture is transitioning, too.
Jones has been directly involved in the evolution and has the experience and knowledge to work with the hospital and his board — and its representative on the local Cleveland Clinic board, Mary Beth Cunningham — to encourage hospital leaders without micromanaging them.
“It’s not our job to run that hospital,” said Jones, noting he wants to continue to help Cleveland Clinic improve.
In fact, history has shown bad things happen when the government tries to run the hospital. It’s why the district started leasing it in the early 1980s.
Westcott has done well to understand the district-hospitspanl lespanse and the district’s founding documents dating to 1959. He said he wants to make Cleveland Clinic the best it can be to suit local residents.
He said he is concerned, though, that he knows hospital staffers who would like to help, and treat patients better, but who say they have been mistreated and have “fear of retaliation.”
That shouldn’t be an issue with 450 registered nurses at the hospital represented by the Teamsters union. Physicians are not unionized. No one wants to lose good physicians, but, as Jones pointed out, Cleveland Clinic has brought in good ones, too.
Jones is proud district-funded programs have helped reduce maternal, infant and neonatal mortality. The district’s tax rate also has dropped dramatically.
Jones, given his experience and track record, is the easy pick in this contest.
Jad Shalhoub, a graduate of St. Edward’s School, brings an engineering degree and experience as a medical consultant/entrepreneur and with his family’s vascular surgery practice into a race against retired hand surgeon William Cooney.
The data-driven Shalhoub cites statistics showing shortages of primary care and specialty physicians in Indian River County. If Cleveland Clinic can’t bring in such practices, the district could do so or partner with others, he said.
He shows a good knowledge of the local health care environment. Cooney, however, a physician at the renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, before working for a decade in Vero Beach, trumps Shalhoub on experience.
Our editorial board asked both candidates about ethical issues they might have faced. One of Cooney’s examples was serving on a Mayo Clinic panel that reviewed implications of human cloning, then sent a report to President George W. Bush.
Locally, Cooney served as president and chairman of the board for the Hope for Fspanmilies Center, training the homeless to help themselves.
Like Shalhoub, Cooney wants to see the community spend money more efficiently by treating the poor before they get to the emergency room. He’d also like to see improvements in treatment for mental health and substance abuse.
While Shalhoub is an impressive young candidate, it would be a waste to not take advantage of Cooney’s vast experience.
In addition to his concerns about Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Igor Khromov, a local medical professor who owns Sports Spine & Pain Medicine, seems to have a good handle on the opioid epidemic.
He was the only candidate who focused on the need to target that problem, suggesting the district could invest in programs to keep people in pain off medication.
Khromov is a worthy candidate, but his opponent is a pillar of the community who would replace another in McCrystal.
Michspanel Kint, retired CEO of United Wspany, was instrumental in the agency’s efforts to ensure maximum impact of donor money the agency gives to nonprofits. Some of them are agencies the district funds, too.
Kint said he’d like to focus his efforts on refining the district’s strspantegic plspann and creating metrics that help assess how it performs in improving local primary and specialty care, along with mental and behavioral health, which he calls a major issue.
In this race, Kint, a longtime public servant almost any group would be happy to have on its board, is the better choice.