This the first of three feature articles about Florida’s Broward Health, our safety-net hospital, the role it plays in our community from its leadership, its bumpy history, its 8,000 employees, its 4 billion dollar budget, its health care decisions, its physicians and of course the taxes we pay to it and what we get in return. It is a story of pockets of excellence and layers of incompetence seasoned with moneyed “sub-rosa” political intrigue, greed and some remarkable acts of courage and character. An insider’s story told from the outside where the good news is that Broward Health could be entering a time of great challenge and opportunity with exactly the right leadership and resources to become one of the finest public hospital systems in the country. A public health care system of which we can all be proud – provided it can avoid its colorful past missteps.
I begin with an introductory profile of Frank Nask, the chief executive officer of Broward Health. You might see him around town, but you would not know him if you did. He is quiet, unassuming and politically shy. He does not like nor crave the spotlight. His personality belies his sharp mind and quick wit. Supremely competent, he was recruited to the position of chief financial officer in 2008 from senior leadership in a lucrative nationally recognized turnaround healthcare crisis management firm to address serious financial problems at Broward Health.
Over his 35 year healthcare career, Mr. Nask has managed hospitals and groups of hospitals (mainly in the Northeast) always working for and with senior health care business leaders and hospital system boards where important strategic decisions were made through collaboration. But none of that experience prepared him for the experience of dealing with a politically appointed public hospital board whose primary role is to provide community policy oversight, and not strategic support to senior leadership.
Broward Health’s board of commissioners are appointed by the Governor typically based on political criteria more for their fund raising abilities and party affiliation then health care or business experience. While most appointees certainly want to do a good job and are motivated to represent the community faithfully, too many act as though their appointment to the hospital board magically vested them with experience, knowledge and perspective they previously lacked. The completely predictable result was that Broward Health’s previous boards too often made critical and important business based on political considerations.
The selection of the Hospital’s chief executive officer was generally an example of political as opposed to business calculations. So in 2010, when upon the sudden departure of the previous chief executive officer under unusual circumstances, the position was offered to Mr. Nask – he was justifiably skeptical. He wasn’t comfortable in politics and the position was political – but board members insisted he accept an interim position because of his remarkable success at stabilizing the system’s financial condition – and who better to be in charge during a transition period then the man watching the money? He accepted, and soon after he was asked to accept the position on a permanent basis.
It’s easy to overlook the growth and accomplishments of Mr. Nask’s stewardship because of his low key style and tendency to generously credit his team for the accomplishments, but the successes speak for themselves and could not have occurred without leadership. Among these successes are (but not limited to):
- Increased the net assets of Broward Health by over 300 million dollars
- Increased employment by over 250 full time positions
- Handled more than 50 thousand more ER visits
- Invested more than 276 million dollars in capital improvements in four hospitals
- Retooled the non-profit Broward Health Foundation which then raised more than 12 million dollars of charitable giving since 2011 and is projected to receive an additional 9 million dollars in 2015.
- Created the Broward Health Quality division to monitor and improve the quality of health care provided to patients which has resulted in improvements in all quality core measure scores.
- Increased the intern and fellowship programs establishing Broward Health as a full teaching hospital system training the healthcare professionals and physicians for our community’s future.
The awards and accomplishments that have piled up for Broward Health in the last few years are too many to list here, but the reason they have is a new attitude at Broward Health that puts the patient and community first. As Mr. Nask is often quoted “Broward Health doesn’t have stockholders, we have patients!”
Well, as usual, I’m out of space. The next feature will talk about how the Broward Health cash register for well- connected insiders has been shut down and replaced with fair market value rules. What a concept for the fifth largest health care system in the country!