Innovative CEO NASK Forced Out, Politics Wins – We Loose!

BH_2C

In September 2014, I began my Florida Broward Health series with my “Path to Professional Competent Leadership” article.  My “It’s Our Hospital” article followed in October as the second of a planned three article series.  My final series planned for December promised to discuss why Florida’s Broward Health protects physician’s income at the expense of providing health care – but then events in November and December turned Broward Health on its head. The CEO was forced out after an embarrassing and remarkably unprofessional public circus, insiders on the Board forced a physician contract that was privately opposed by the medical staff, two new political appointments were made to the board by the re-elected governor, and in what appeared to be a slick political maneuver, a new CEO was hired with no previous experience managing a hospital let alone one of the largest public hospital system in the country. Each is a story that needs to be told. One of my first resolutions this year is to do my best to tell these important stories.  The result will be a regular monthly Broward Health article, beginning with how and why Frank Nask was forced out as CEO.

In hindsight, it was perhaps inevitable that Frank Nask would be forced out.  His obvious competence as a financial manager of a 4 billion dollar hospital system was ultimately defeated by his inability to understand and cope with a politically appointed board in a public hospital system fraught with pockets of excellence and smothered by layers of incompetence. Although the board approved all of Mr. Nask’s proposals and recommendations throughout his tenure as CEO, his decision making was too often frozen by board level gossip, innuendo, and his irrational fear of denial.  While it was clear he had a vision for Broward Health’s future based on world class health care and real quality metrics far exceeding the requirements of Medicare, it was equally clear that he was unable to communicate that vision successfully to his board members in a decisive manner. As a result, a number of critical innovations and programs that he started will no doubt be put aside for wont of an advocate or uncomfortably delayed while the new CEO learns his job.

It was the inexperience of the board and the lack of vision of its members that failed to take the opportunity during the final year of Nask’s contract (expires on March 31st 2015)  to negotiate in good faith an extension together with an appropriate succession plan that would maintain organizational stability, programmatic continuity and a smooth transition. Instead they chose to advertise, interview, negotiate and hire the CEO of a 4 billion dollar hospital system in 30 days.  Nask successfully negotiated a severance package and on December 20th, 2014, the old boss was out, and the new boss was in.  Meanwhile, the organization is in shock – as well it should be.

As a backdrop and perhaps even as a contributing factor to the CEO change, a notable physician’s contract was in controversy.  No one could debate that Dr. Michael Chizner had received an overly generous contract several years ago which was, in part, due to pressure put on the board of commissioners by notable people like Wayne Huizenga.  And it was no surprise that it was one of the contracts that had to be renegotiated on the basis of fair market value.  What was a surprise was the Dr. Chizner apparently refused to negotiate and/or agree to a fair market contract and as a result was given notice of contract termination.  Chizner hired republican powerhouse Senator George LeMieux as his attorney and before you knew it – many members of the high-powered Broward Workshop turned up at the November Broward Health board meeting, telling the board how Dr. Chizner saved their lives (in the back of the room, the testimonies were being coordinated by an associate of Senator LeMieux).

While it is clear that Dr. Chizner is a gifted physician, many in attendance at the meeting shared with me their disgust and embarrassment at one of their fellow physicians parading his patients in front of the board to force a contract.  After all, saving people and getting them healthy is the job description of all physicians at Broward Health – and they do it every day.

Dr. Chizner’s circus was successful in that the board pressured Nask into re-offering a contract to him – essentially the same one Dr. Chizner refused to sign previously, but which now he accepted.  The new (old) contract based on fair market value reportedly reduced Dr. Chizner’s annual payments by over $600,000.  Certainly with three highly partisan republican appointees controlling the Broward Health board and the very republican Broward workshop behind Chizner, It was apparent that Nask’s severance package was tied to the re-offer of the Chizner contract.

With Governor Scott’s reelection came two new board appointments, both with impeccable republican political credentials and with little or no real-world business experience.  Is this and are they a harbinger of bad things to come?  I’m not so sure.  These new board appointments are interesting and a subject of a future article.

As usual, I’m out of space well before I am out of story.  I’ll revisit some of this and focus on the new board appointments in my next article.  So, until then – Happy New Year!