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Concerned Citizens of
Franklin County, Inc.
PO Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida32328
(850) 653-5571

Healthcare Townhall In Eastpoint

on Tuesday, 15 October 2019.

Healthcare-Next Step

on Wednesday, 18 September 2019.

The Dog Caught the Car... Now What?

Hello Friends:

For those of you who don’t already know, Franklin County Commissioners voted to suspend spending on a Weems replacement and look to three area Healthcare Systems to partner with. The CCFC has worked tirelessly to see this day come. For all the reasons we have espoused in the past, economics and demographics spelled the end of the current system. But, as Ross Perot famously said in his unsuccessful run as a third party Presidential candidate. “That giant sucking sound you heard”, was the emptiness of ideas for what’s next. It is the CCFC’s opinion that there is no one in our county government that can lead us forward. The issues are complex, partisan and beg for entirely new thinking.

The CCFC is going to push forward with creating a roundtable meeting in October for invited individuals to discuss the way forward. The meeting will be open to the public and public officials. We see our role as kicking off the discussion in a carefully considered manner to ensure that a Vision Statement is well thought out, vetted and eventually implemented. We will be contacting individuals that have either expressed an interest in “what’s next” or that have shown an interest in the past to implement something better than we have at present. If you, or someone you know would like to be considered please reach out to me; I’d love to speak with you.

The following is our current thinking and is just a beginning. I hope you see a lot of what you like and understand at least one sound direction we can go:

Assumptions and Goals:

  1. Franklin County wants the best possible healthcare for its citizens.
  2. The Franklin County Commission acknowledges that Carrabelle was originally promised a 24x7 urgent care facility.
  3. Franklin County currently collects a 1% Healthcare Trust Fund Tax to be divided equally between Weems Operations and Capital requirements. This was agreed to through and by Inter-local Agreement with Apalachicola and Carrabelle, although with specific local requirements embodied in each agreement.
  4. Weems Hospital as currently configured and operated is not a successful or viable continuing option. Averaging about one inpatient per night and losing far more than the generous subsidies it receives cannot go on forever.
  5. It is estimated that up to 85% of healthcare services for Franklin County citizens is presently performed outside the county.
  6. As a stand-alone hospital, Weems is not affiliated with any geographically close major health system.
  7. Franklin County’s population is aging and generally static. There are many unmet needs, particularly for the young and elderly, for those with ongoing health challenges and for those with inadequate or no health insurance.
  8. A major objective is to deliver a greater percentage of healthcare within the county and to make local access desirable and readily available to all.
  9. There are three pillars upon which success in the county depends; successful educational institutions, broad based economic development and strong access to excellent healthcare. This will bring business opportunities, retirees and vacationers in greater numbers helping to boost our local economy and create jobs
  10. To reduce the number of ambulance runs and response times; reducing runs through a combination of geographic centralization leading to shorter miles per run and less runs because of the availability of high quality locally available healthcare.
  11. Permanently change the form of governance to a qualified Health Trust Board on one FCBOCC Commissioner shall have a permanent seat and the Partner Healthcare System (PHS) one seat. Medical, Faith, local leaders and business individuals will fill out the balance of an eleven member Health Trust Board (HTB) to be chaired by a member they select.
  12. Franklin County’s financial liability will be strictly limited per agreement vs. the unlimited liability it has today.
  13. The PHS with which Franklin County partners will be the primary financial partner. The PHS shall own/lease and maintain all capital equipment and real estate.

Request for Proposal:

  1. Modify as necessary and assume responsibility for Carrabelle Weems Clinic so as to be able to provide a 24x7 Urgent Care facility. Ownership of the facility will remain with Franklin County which will lease the facility for $1 a year for 15 years with one additional lease term of 15 years available. Lease shall be triple net, meaning no cost to the county. The FCHD clinic shall be closed and combined into one Carrabelle service facility.
  2. Build, equip and maintain a free-standing Emergency Room Facility including four observation beds in a physical location agreed to by all parties, preferably in Eastpoint, Florida.
  3. Provide a plan to provide and bring in specialists on a regular rotating basis to either or both facilities.
  4. Provide outreach, training incentives and support to hire and/or retain the largest number of local Franklin County citizens possible. All employees shall be credentialed, trained and provided with normal benefits of the contracted PHS.
  5. Provide a system of emergency care access including aeromedical evacuation to ensure that Franklin county citizens can receive care in the critical “Golden Hour” where possible for major trauma/sickness.
  6. Develop a RFQ for proposed PHS applicants including a response document to ensure “apples to apples” responses.
  7. The Partner Healthcare System will share in the initial Capital Costs of reorganizing and refurbishing of the Carrabelle Clinic as well as those of the new free standing Emergency Department on a 50-50 basis subject to agreed up maximums for both sides.
  8. Franklin County will contribute 50% of the ongoing existing Healthcare Trust Fund Tax as a subsidy to the selected PHS and will no longer individually subsidize clinics out of the General Fund
  9. The Health Trust Board will retain the other half of the Healthcare Trust Fund and use it to spark and incentivize other healthcare services in the county including but not limited to; dentistry, mental health, the special needs community, challenges unmet by other programs and targeted programs to improve healthcare within the county and such other needs that the Board deems appropriate and reasonable that extend life and viability of Franklin County citizens.

All facilities would be operational within 24 months of execution of an Agreement.

That’s it ladies and gentlemen. As always, I’d love to hear your comments. We must move fast. Nature abhors a vacuum and we have one at the moment.

The very best to you all!


Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O. Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
ABetterFranklin.com
(850) 653-5571

“The Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc. serves as a citizens’ advocate to ensure that our Franklin County governments are more open, affordable, efficient, and responsive to our citizens. The organization seeks to hold public officials accountable for their actions in the administration of their duties and in their fiduciary responsibilities to the taxpayers.”

Commissioner Contacts:

Commissioner Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner William Massey - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

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CCFC-Weems CEO Resigns

on Monday, 12 August 2019.

What’s next for Weems and our County’s Healthcare Future?

Hello Friends:

As a result of a strong vote of no confidence by County Commissioners on Tuesday the 13th, H.D. Cannington resigned as the sixth CEO hired over the last 12 years for Weems Hospital. Mr. Cannington’s proposal to hire a Doctor at a first year cost of approximately $300,000 including salary, incentives, head hunter fees and Malpractice insurance was not accepted. The Commissioners finally demonstrated their real concern for the reality of the Weems financial situation. But, sadly, I am not sure the real lesson of this situation has been understood by the Commissioners who must represent and act on behalf of the public they serve. Please read on….

An Open Letter to the Commissioners of Franklin County

Community Healthcare Crisis
hat Now?

More than $18 million dollars of tax funds have been spent over the last 12 years, and still the county struggles without a successful and safe health care facility of which we can all be proud.

Commissioner Boldt, local resident Gail Riegelmayer and Allan Feifer of the CCFC met with Weems CEO Cannington May 14th to request answers to questions concerning Weems’ current and future financial health. He was unable to provide answers to most of our questions. Now, the Commission is finally aware that Weems has been borrowing from both operational and capital portions of the sales tax revenue, and has been consuming nearly 100% of the Healthcare Trust Fund Tax for their Operations.

The Commission has now also been made aware of a lapse in coverage at Weems for Workers Compensation Insurance after they were dropped (with notice) by their previous carrier. Weems is now in the dreaded State Pool and faces significant financial penalties if they self-report as is required by law. There was a significant injury during the lapsed period. A recent and very worrisome onsite inspection and subsequent report by ACHA (the State agency that monitors and inspects hospitals.) deflected by CEO Cannington, assured the commission that the infractions were “of little concern” although they included failures in required sterilization procedures and reporting multiple failures of administrative leadership and other specific infractions that ultimately required a 24 hour a day “Fire Watch” by the FCSO.

Additionally, significant concerns have now been brought to light about the handling of insurance for major Weems roof repairs and replacement. Commissioners learned that the vitally important re-roofing job at Weems is months behind schedule and has not even commenced. In addition, significant personnel issues have come to light, including claims of a hostile work environment and whistle blower status for some employees.

We at CCFC fear this overall situation and other failures may all get worse the closer Commissioners look.

So, what’s next? Do we go looking for the 7th CEO? I sure hope not. The CCFC believes that Mr. Cannington’s departure allows for a necessary pause in this healthcare services process. While there will be some short-term need for interim leadership at the hospital, that person would serve as a placeholder while we work together to sort out healthcare needs and wants for Franklin county healthcare.

We also urge a freeze on last month’s decision to spend an additional $221,000 more (In addition to nearly $1.5 million spent on the project so far) in the hopeful search that an affordable Guaranteed Maximum Price can be found to build the proposed addition and to remodel Weems. Instead, let us look at some more practical alternatives to service the 1550 people who voted twelve years ago for a pie-in-the-sky hospital as promoted back then which is/was neither practical nor realistic today.

Best practices demonstrate that our county cannot afford a full service, well equipped and fully staffed hospital to meet the standards expected and even required for today. We cannot afford fully equipped operating rooms and specialized staff, nor dialysis equipment and staff, nor cath labs, nor full time rehab and the myriad other expensive services and multi-million dollar equipment considered “standard” in hospitals of today.

Weems has primarily been a “pack’em and ship’em” operation. Patients are frequently sent elsewhere for real treatment and further evaluation. In general, only minor injuries and short term illnesses are handled locally.

CCFC believes we can raise up our local healthcare game! Public citizens, please consider these possibilities:

  1. Centralize any new facility in Eastpoint where it can serve a larger base and better attract and serve individuals from SGI and further East. Yes we can!
  2. Rightsizing for a 24 hour a day Emergency Room with observation beds and the latest Emergency Care technology. (Most people don’t realize that the “new” Weems will only have their existing dated equipment and technology. New, updated modern equipment is a must for satisfactory patient care today! We can build a new facility with access to real doctors and the best equipment. It can save lives. We CAN do well with a new, smaller, modern facility to serve today’s local patients. Yes we can!
  3. We must realistically live within our means. Weems projects that it will lose a staggering $2.3 million this fiscal year before subsidies leaving a net cash loss of approximately $944,000 after all subsidies this year alone. Where will all the necessary operational cash come from now? NO, we cannot let this money drain continue to happen!
  4. We can and must partner with a healthcare system that will put ‘skin in the game’ and instead of borrowing possibly upwards of $15 million, more or less! We must figure out how to avoid borrowing to excess and, in the process, we can get a better facility. Yes we can!
  5. As we build, staff and operate this new facility, we will bring local pride, jobs, better outcomes and sanity back to Franklin County Healthcare. Yes we can!
  6. We suggest that a permanent Healthcare Task Force be created to incentivize best practices, create more community involvement and otherwise oversee a new healthcare partnership. This carefully chosen group would replace the existing management and oversight structure and better represent our consumers. Individuals on this task force would include local and other healthcare professionals in addition to appropriate consumers and successful business people, all of whom would report monthly to the Commission. Yes, we can!

Commissioners; please start with this first step. Speak to the citizens of Franklin County. We have experts, both retired and active, community organizers, healthcare professionals and others that would like to talk, and actually be heard by their Commissioners on behalf of better healthcare outcomes in Franklin County. We need such a dialogue, currently impossible since the written policy of “Non Engagement” was enacted a couple of years ago. We ask you to please, open your minds and your hearts to opinions that may seem different from your own but in the end, we believe that all of us want the same thing you do…the best healthcare that we can deliver and afford. Yes, we can!

What do you say Commissioners? Can the people be allowed, and even encouraged to publicly revisit this locally important health care issue? More than $18 million has been spent over the last 12 years, and still the county struggles without a successful and safe health care facility of which we can all be proud. (By the way, Commissioners, by your own admission, you told us that none of you go to Weems for your own care.) Can you admit we need better? It’s always been up to you Commissioners.

”What do you say?” Can you and will you agree that it is well beyond time for a positive change for all of us?


Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O. Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
ABetterFranklin.com
(850) 653-5571

“The Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc. serves as a citizens’ advocate to ensure that our Franklin County governments are more open, affordable, efficient, and responsive to our citizens. The organization seeks to hold public officials accountable for their actions in the administration of their duties and in their fiduciary responsibilities to the taxpayers.”

Commissioner Contacts:

Commissioner Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner William Massey - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

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CCFC-County Summertime Happenings

on Monday, 05 August 2019.

Summertime Flying By

Hello Friends:

It was a very busy July for the CCFC. The twin battles of the yearly Budget Workshop and the next phase of the Weems saga consumed the month. We can bring you some good news on the county budget front and some disheartening news on the Weems front.

There was a determination this year to hold the line on costs. Whether the CCFC helped fan the flames of conservatism or not, there was a distinct desire to reign in any additional spending. While we could always argue that taxes could be lowered, we’ll take the win and move on. In spite of a visit by a category 4-5 hurricane, property values increased the most that they have in over 10 years, up 7.42 percent. Last year’s millage rate was 6.2679 with the rollback rate of 5.9040. The actual adopted rate was 5.9494 very close to that rolled back rate. We could take potshots at the current year’s increase having been unnecessary, but we will leave it alone. We’ll hit it again next year and try to keep the county from leasing new dump trucks every year as a tremendous fiscal waste and we will try to work even earlier on rationalizing a county budget that is only available for scrutiny three or four days before the hearing. The millage rate will be on your TRIM statement coming out shortly. Depending on where you live in the county, expect your tax bill to remain close to last year’s. There are very big differences in assessed values between Alligator Point and Carrabelle for example with Alligator Point being hit with significant increases that will reflect in higher net taxes. Have the Property Appraisers number on quick dial for your appeal.

If there were a hospital for hospitals, Weems would be in its Intensive Care Ward. What I am about to tell you is unbelievable but totally true. I am using numbers generated by Weems or from other county records. The latest financial numbers available are from June. Weems lost $276,731 before subsidies in June and $82,871 after subsidies. That is to say a net cash loss. So far this fiscal year Weems has lost $2,249,620 before all the assistance they are given and $683,097 afterwards. By the end of September, by their own projections they will have lost $944,297. To put this in perspective, they will have consumed nearly the entire Healthcare Trust Fund Tax for Operations with nothing left over for the many other capital needs, or for building any new or remodeled facility. The total number of “Inpatient Days” for June was 7. That’s not a misprint…seven. That means for the majority of the month, the facility beds were empty of patients. Don’t allow hospital management to gloss over this stark reality with tales of four hour observations being counted as “stays”. The hospital owes $1.6 million in current accounts and its cash is being depleted daily. Look for Weems to be asking for county financial support soon as it has in the past.

Now, to the real tragedy. The push to build a new/remodeled facility continues in spite of an inability to even understand how much it will cost or where the money will come to make the notes for the next 40 years. In December, the hospital CEO, HD Cannington, famous for the number of hospitals that have failed under his leadership, asked for$50,000 in December to get a best and final number to allow Commissioners to make a once and for all decision to move forward or not. At a Workshop on Friday the 26th July, I spoke to the Commissioners and advised them that roughly $1.5 million had been spent to date (noted on county ledger as “Work in Progress”) and we were still a long way from knowing what the project will cost. Unbelievably, the County voted 4-1 to spend another $221,000 to get a final number and a GMP (Guaranteed Maximum Price) to essentially replace Weems with an updated version of today’s Weems. No new services, no Doctors, no specialists. Place your bets on what the final price will be. $12 million, $14 million or as high as $17 million? No one knows today. We witnessed the CEO and the Architect previously arguing about what was going to be required with the architect warning of much greater requirements/cost than Mr. Cannington.

While we are apparently getting our licks in Mr. and Ms. Taxpayer, let me let you in on something the County Chairman will explode about. Right now, Mr. Cannington is negotiating with the next prospective Doctor to consider coming to Weems. Salary of $225,000, sign on bonus, moving expenses, living support for a while. Well, where is Weems going to get the money to make this happen? I understand their planning to come to the County Commission for more help! Remember your Oliver Twist? “The assistants were paralyzed with wonder; the boys with fear. “What!" said the master at length, in a faint voice? "Please, sir," replied Oliver, "I want some more." And so it goes.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please let your Commissioners know that you support dumping Weems as was promised last year by every single commissioner. Can this really go on much longer?

Wait for the next shoe to drop in August…it’s a doozy.


Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
ABetterFranklin.com

Still haven’t paid your 2019 Dues? We really need your support to continue on with the work we undertake for you. Thank you for past and continued support. Send us a check today (please write your email address on the check) at the address below while you are still thinking about us. Not a member? No problem, click on… http://www.abetterfranklin.com/index.php/join-ccfc to join today. We depend on your support! Membership dues are not tax deductible.

Thank you for your current and past support!


Sincerely,

Allan J. Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O. Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
ABetterFranklin.com
(850) 653-5571

“The Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc. serves as a citizens’ advocate to ensure that our Franklin County governments are more open, affordable, efficient, and responsive to our citizens. The organization seeks to hold public officials accountable for their actions in the administration of their duties and in their fiduciary responsibilities to the taxpayers.”

Commissioner Contacts:

Commissioner Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner William Massey - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Please feel free to redistribute this email to your friends!

Weems on the Edge

on Monday, 03 June 2019.

Franklin County Happenings

Hello Friends:

Everyone needs to know what’s happening at Weems. It’s reached the point of being hard to believe, but it’s all true. The Hospital Board is all for the Town Hall Meetings we proposed, but after they sign for the loan, not before! Now, with the current stumbles you will read about below, it’s possible that the Commission will pause and take another look before jumping off the bridge. Read below, contact your Commissioner and let him know what you think. We are just about to launch this year’s budget cycle, but Weems is the budgets worst nightmare, threatening to gobble up General Tax Revenues in excess of the Health Care Trust Fund Money (sales tax) that they consume today in addition to many other subsidies. Did you know that Weems own records show they average less than one patient in the hospital a night for the last year? Read on….


An Open Letter to the Commissioners of Franklin County Community Healthcare Crisis
Is there a successful financial future for Weems Hospital?

Weems Hospital is in freefall. What has happened in just the last 30 days? Commissioner Boldt, local residents Gail Riegelmayer and Allan Feifer of the CCFC met with Weems CEO HD Cannington on May 14th to uncover facts concerning Weems’ current and future financial health. We asked about the financial feasibility of building a new hospital, what it will cost the taxpayers, what services will be offered, how a future Weems will compete with Sacred Heart and other medical services companies in Franklin County. We asked what the plan is if the one-cent sales tax cannot cover the costs for building and out-fitting a new hospital. A total of 32 financial health questions were asked

We asked Mr. Cannington for a copy of Weems Vision Statement and Income Projections and Balance Sheet for Weems projected new construction. We asked for Pro Forma projections that would have been required by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Franklin County’s application for the pending $10.2 million dollar loan. We asked if hospital designs had been finalized and what the new facility will cost based on those projected configurations. We asked if there will be any additional new services after the project is completed. We asked, what are the funding plans to bridge the gap from construction to any expected ramp-up in revenues to cover interim losses? Also asked for was a competitive analysis taking Weems competitors into account for market share purposes. We asked if Weems could realistically expect to repay the USDA note and how will Weems fund a Physician Recruitment Plan costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in addition to construction and equipment costs. We asked if Weems’ design been approved by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA.)

The answer to all of the above was either “No,” “I don’t know.” or “We don’t have it.” We were dumbfounded by that lack of financial projections, fiscal understanding and planning for a realistic county health care future.

Especially worrisome about those incomplete answers was that the Weems’ Hospital Board was to vote in two days on construction of a new hospital! Then, on May 21st, the projected construction was scheduled to be voted on by the County Commission. But, due to an acknowledged lack of available information, the Weems Hospital Board meeting was canceled; thus, the matter never was discussed at the subsequent County Commission Meeting.

Last Thursday, May 30th, the Hospital Board met and among the items discussed at the meeting was that our third CFO in the last two years was missing in action…no one knew where he was nor when he would return. In addition, April financial statements were not available.

We also became aware that in a surprise inspection, serious deficiencies were discovered by AHCA last week, and an emergency action was needed in order that the hospital would not be closed for Life Safety issues! (Just one of those problems is that sprinkler heads had been painted over.) The emergency action taken was that a Sheriff’s Deputy was hired for a 24/7 Fire Watch, requiring that the Deputy walk the hospital every 15 minutes at a cost of time and a half salary

Later in that same May 30th Hospital Board meeting, the subject of the new Weems Construction was brought up. As you may remember, Commissioners gave Mr. Cannington yet another $50,000 last December to update the cost to build a new hospital. Now, six months later, there is still no “hard pricing” for the construction project. Instead, there is an architect’s unsigned letter guesstimating a new cost of possibly $17 million! But even this projection is not firm since the architect points out a “Partial List of Exclusions” which could indeed cost millions more.

Now we come to the issue of lawsuits and lack of insurance coverage to handle them. Discussed briefly at last week’s Hospital Board is a lawsuit by a former Doctor who was paid a signing bonus of $10-$25 thousand dollars, who worked three days and was then fired, but who kept his bonus. In addition, there are other lawsuits likely to occur as a result of a botched background check on an Emergency Medical Technician who is accused of multiple sexual crimes and is now sitting in jail. Weems only did an FDLE background check which typically only picks up warrants and crimes in Florida. The more rigorous FBI background check was not pursued. According to an article in the Apalachicola Times, this same EMT was accused of a similar crime in Michigan. Insurance coverage that the hospital had at that time these events occurred was limited to $100,000 per incident with $250,000 per occurrence. Only recently, the County raised its insurance limits at the hospital but it is our opinion that amount it is still insufficient. And, there is another pending litigation with a former EMT still out there.

Commissioners, it is time to reevaluate and change our thinking around the idea of building a new hospital. Circumstances in the healthcare industry and laws have greatly changed. The costs to build and compete with a new hospital have significantly increased since the 1-cent sales tax was voted on by the public back in 2007. Indeed, the healthcare industry changes and increased costs are all out of your direct control. But we must accept these facts as our reality now, and we develop a different path forward to bring quality healthcare to Franklin County.

The people of Franklin County would be better served, both financially and through improved healthcare, if this Board built a standalone, first-class Emergency Department with beds like other rural communities around the country have successfully done. Weems cannot adequately or successfully compete with other better funded facilities which have a broader range of services. It’s time to hear from your constituents and find out what they think and need TODAY. We request that you follow through on the Weems Hospital Board’s recommendation to hold Public Workshops around the county to hear from the community to determine the best path forward for quality healthcare in Franklin County. The CCFC stands willing and ready to help the County to ensure a strong turnout for these Workshops.

We understand that the wording of the ballot of the 1-cent sales tax referendum was to build a new hospital. We are sensitive to the pressure you must feel to honor this promise. However, the referendum was not specific as to how big, what kind of hospital or where it would be located. In today’s healthcare environment and overwhelming costs, please make your decisions based on current facts and realities, and not the hopes and dreams from 2007 and the failures of leadership.

Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
ABetterFranklin.com

Still haven’t paid your 2019 Dues? We really need your support to continue on with the work we undertake for you. Thank you for past and continued support. Send us a check today (please write your email address on the check) at the address below while you are still thinking about us. Not a member? No problem, click on... http://www.abetterfranklin.com/index.php/join-ccfc to join today. We depend on your support! Membership dues are not tax deductible.

Thank you for your current and past support!

Sincerely,

Allan J. Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O. Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
ABetterFranklin.com
(850) 653-5571

“The Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc. serves as a citizens’ advocate to ensure that our Franklin County governments are more open, affordable, efficient, and responsive to our citizens. The organization seeks to hold public officials accountable for their actions in the administration of their duties and in their fiduciary responsibilities to the taxpayers.”

Commissioner Contacts:

Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner William Massey - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Weem’s Ad 02-19 1 of 2

on Thursday, 07 February 2019.

Big Gamble

When it comes to health care, there is one thing everyone in Franklin County agrees on: Everyone who lives here, full time or part-time, and everyone who comes to visit should expect to receive top-quality health care available here, for themselves and their family and friends. Living here should not amount to gambling with your health.

There is no argument, no disagreement, and no difference of opinion on this fundamental issue. To help accomplish this, county residents voted in 2007, by a strong margin, a 1 percent sales tax, earmarked entirely for health care, and it was implemented beginning in 2008. That first year brought in $1.2 million, and while it fluctuated over the next decade,it has now climbed to more than $2.1 million annually in sales tax receipts. County residents need to pat themselves on the back for having the foresight, and the insight,to institute this sales tax, a significant portion of which is funded by out-of-county visitors.

Since first instituted, sales tax proceeds have topped more than $18.5 million, a tidy sum that most any community in the United States would love to have for its health care needs.

Licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, advanced registered nurse practitioners, physician assistants, doctors - all those dedicated health care professionals on the front lines of providing health care have been supported by these tax dollars. About $3.5 million remains in the fund, considered a critically important chunk of dollars slated to renovate and expand Weems Memorial Hospital on its current site in Apalachicola.

The question is: Is that the best way to spend this money?

Consider this.

Of the monies raised so far by the tax, about $4 million has been spent largely on capital expenditures, mainly for the hospital site, including hundreds of thousands of dollars towards consultants, advisors and other non-health care professionals who have profited from the slow-moving planning for a new hospital. Underutilized Weems East was also built with about a million dollars of HCTF Capital funds.

Of the remaining roughly $11 million, nearly all of it has gone to prop up the operating costs of Weems. Operation of the Clinics and Ambulance Services being funded separately from General Ad Valorem Revenues. Weems has increasingly lost ground to an aggressively expanding Sacred Heart health care system, already well-established in Apalachicola and now expanding to Eastpoint.

The Franklin County School District, secured millions of dollars in Triumph funds, from the Deep water Horizon oil spill of 2010, for vocational education, and topping their agenda for spending these monies is expanding, for students and adults alike, a program enabling them to take their first steps towards a career as a health care professional. The district is seeking partners to enable these graduates to secure job opportunities in the area, and where are they turning? To Sacred Heart, among others.

The issue remains, in this rapidly evolving world of local health care, does it continue to make sense to spend this entire treasure chest of precious health care dollars entirely on Weems, where it sits in Apalachicola, to be spent on construction companies and other non-health care professionals?

There is no question that renovating and expanding Weems will cost millions of dollars, and will create permanent debt for the County for the first time.It will also raise costs of operations with uncertain revenues to support new debt and new costs. And what will a new facility accomplish, given the increasing competition from Sacred Heart? Will more specialists come to Apalachicola? Will the inpatient rooms be filled? Keep in mind that Weems today average sonly one or two in patients a night at present, sometimes none.

Consider this:

A new hospital will draw only on county residents, a population base that has not grown much in 15 years. The hospital will serve Apalachicola and Eastpoint primarily; the eastern end increasingly prefers Tallahassee for its health care.

When complete, Weems will still have no operating rooms, no kidney dialysis, no advanced radiology, no cardiac catheterization, no cancer treatment, no pulmonology, no rehab facility, no Board Certified Specialists, and still an emergency room limited in its ability to treat heart attacks, strokes and other serious injuries or illnesses that have be taken elsewhere right away or the patient may not survive.

None of these service swill be there, at least not at the outset, and it is questionable Weems will ever have the resources to add these offerings except on a visiting basis. This is a gamble with a huge potential downside.

County officials believe that “if you build it, they will come,” but what evidence is there this is true? Weems hospital CEOs have for years promised to expand offerings at Weems, and yet little or nothing has been accomplished in this regard. If you need an elective procedure, and it can be done at Sacred Heart or Bay Medical, you'll head west.If Tallahassee Memorial or Capital Regional is where you'll prefer, you'll head north.

The likelihood is that it will be difficult to expand offerings at Weems,and the hospital will remain in need of huge long-term subsidies from the county, hopefully not continuing to have to borrow additional monies above even that to meet payrolls as has happened repeatedly in the past. And to complicate matters, even with the Critical Access Hospital designation, which helps stem losses, Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates are on the decline and the Critical Care Access program is under attack at the Federal level.

In the absence of the hospital’s Critical Access Hospital designation, which boosts the amount of Medicare dollars it receives, Weems would have been forced to shut its doors long ago. But even that designation has its limits. It has not eliminated the need for the hospital to consume about $15 million over the last decade,in valuable health care dollars, just to stay afloat.

We think there are better ideas than simply going into debt, based on the wishful thinking that services will greatly expand, without evidence that will happen.

We think the county’s health care tax dollars have to be carefully targeted, so that they serve as the economic driver they are designed to be, and not to further line the pockets of out-of-county consultants and construction companies,or a handful of highly paid administrators.

We think they need to go towards boosting the bottom line of the front-line health care workers, the doctors and the nurses, the EMTs and the paramedics, who make the difference.

We believe the county needs to take a broader look at the whole picture, at what type of facility it needs and where it ought to be located. We need to talk about health care outcomes and trackable metrics instead of necessarily building edifices with a bronze plaque at the entrance.

weems memorial

There are lots of options out there, for using revenue strategically and effectively. Let’s start looking at them before we invest heavily at what could likely become a losing proposition, in a rapidly-changing world of health care. 12 years ago citizens originally voted for a rendering portraying a 31,000 square foot Greenfield hospital. No one is even dreaming of that anymore. What remains is a hollow shell of what was promised to citizens. The promise then was a poorly thought out fantasy. Let’s get serious with what will save lives now. Let’s stop gambling.

Next week, we will continue this series and offer options to consider.

Concerned Citizens of Franklin County,Inc.
P.O. Box 990
Eastpoint, FL 32328
www.ABetterFranklin.com

What the CCFC Did in 2018

on Tuesday, 18 December 2018.

Hello Friends:

We are midway through our 2019 Fundraising Campaign and wanted you to know what we have been involved with throughout the year. We hope you agree the following list is a good reason for your continued support of Concerned Citizens:

  1. We have attended almost all County Commission Meetings in 2018. When appropriate we speak up with facts, concerns and frequently accepted alternatives to the current conversation.
  2. The Association frequently attends Hospital Board Meetings and while listening primarily, frequently asks the tough questions and pushes for accountability and logic in the conversation.We are currently advocating a permanent solution to health care in Franklin County with a proposal on the table from Sacred Heart Health Systems to build and manage a state-of-the-art Medical Mall and a real Emergency Room, plus run and update the two clinics and manage our current EMS system, finally getting the County out of the Health care business that has lost tens of millions of dollars since the County took it over.
  3. The CCFC constantly researches best practices and shares those with County Departments and Constitutional Officers.
  4. The CCFC listens to concerns from County and Hospital employees and citizens at large. We provide advice, information and sometimes get involved in specific issues.
  5. We have demanded (sometimes not successfully) that public meetings be held with decorum and actually listen to the public, be they large or small.
  6. We have visited with the Sheriff, understand his priorities and try to balance all the competing priorities. We have recommended and the Sheriff and County have implemented alternative budget mechanisms.
  7. At budget time, we are there early and often, sometimes incurring the ire of a few Commissioners who don’t like the introspection. Workshops, Adoption Hearings, we are there.
  8. We constantly strive to talk directly to the people, both in person and through these emails and several guest columns or letters to the editor. One of our Board Members disseminates our messages through other routes as well.
  9. We talk with Federal and State representatives who sometimes take our message back to the county through a different path. We have worked with a bevy of State and Federal officials and have had a Special Master appointed at Alligator Point for its hurricane recovery for Alligator Drive.
  10. We built and maintain a website “ABetterFranklin.com” that posts information of interest to the general public including comparisons, notices and other information of value. We also have an active Facebook account.
  11. We reach out through emails such as these on a frequent basis and enjoy receiving feedback from the many people who call, write or spread the word.

There is much more we do over any given year. We were disappointed this year that taxes went up unnecessarily. In 2019, the political winds have changed with the election of Bert Boldt as Commissioner which begins a more balanced Eastern looking vision. We continue to foresee increases in the County Tax Digest going forward. The CCFC is that bulwark against excessive or unwarranted spending.

That brings me down to our pitch. Once a year we go to our members and fellow Franklin County citizens to ask for your financial support. We do a lot with a little but still need your help. Won’t you please help support our efforts in 2019? Without your support, both in numbers and dollars, we are constrained in what we can do and the impact we can make. Please send us whatever you can and know that we will put your dollars to good use.

Thank you for past and continued support. Send us a check today (please write your email address on the check) at the address below while you are still thinking about us. Not a member? No problem, click on... http://www.abetterfranklin.com/index.php/join-ccfc2 Join today. We depend on your support! Membership dues are not tax deductible.

Thank you for your support and Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a great New Year’s to all!

Sincerely,

Allan J. Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O. Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
ABetterFranklin.com
(850) 653-5571

“The Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc. serves as a citizens’ advocate to ensure that our Franklin County governments are more open, affordable, efficient, and responsive to our citizens. The organization seeks to hold public officials accountable for their actions in the administration of their duties and in their fiduciary responsibilities to the taxpayers.”

Commissioner Contacts:

Cheryl Sanders - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 697-2534

Chairman-Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Commissioner Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner William Massey - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

A Special Message to Franklin County Property Owners

on Friday, 02 November 2018.

2018 has been extremely active for CCFC and Franklin County government. Five of seven governmental agencies in Franklin County again raised their taxes. We believe those raises were unnecessary. We brought analyses and information to budget hearings to prove the accounts could have been better managed to avoid those increases, on you, the taxpayer.

The CCFC represents those without a voice on matters of financial propriety, and seeks to secure transparency, efficiency and eliminate public corruption in Franklin County. If you ever had the feeling that you were powerless to affect change, that’s where we come in. We work with Commissioners, Hospital Board and other elected officials throughout the year. We hold elected officials to account and raise our voices to influence their deliberations and outcomes.

Please feel free to share this letter with your friends; encourage them to learn more about the work of the Concerned Citizens and to join the CCFC as new members.

Let me share with you some of this year’s CCFC efforts on behalf of best practices to achieve and guarantee transparency and a fiscally responsible, fair and accountable government for Franklin County.

  1. We have attended almost all County Commission Meetings in 2018. When appropriate and possible, we speak up with facts, concerns and alternatives which may be accepted later in deliberations.
  2. The Association frequently attends Hospital Board Meetings to primarily listen to reports and budget facts as presented. We will ask questions while pushing for accountability and logic in the expenditures for Weems Hospital operations. We hope Commissioners will finally take the CCFC’s suggestion to enter into a more sensible and successful risk-sharing partnership with Sacred Heart Hospital. This can cap the county’s liability and provide a long-promised new facility, supported by the existing hospital tax, and which may be more centrally located for all residents of Franklin County.
  3. The CCFC constantly researches best ideas and business practices, sharing them with County Departments and Constitutional Officers.
  4. We have been very involved in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. Our county’s small voting size precludes us from securing some resources that bigger counties achieve. As CCFC president, I have personally spoken to Senator Rubio and with a representative in Senator Nelson’s office (among others) to discuss innovative and long-term solutions to specific challenges our county has.
  5. We expect (sadly not always successfully) that public meetings be held with decorum and respect toward the citizenry. We ask that the public be heard before a vote is held on agenda items. (The county currently enforces a three minute limit for each spokesperson’s public comment only at the beginning of each meeting.) We ask that public comments be heard and spokespersons be respected on agenda items before a Commission vote is taken and action implemented as was done in the past.
  6. At budget time, we are there early and often, sometimes incurring the ire of a few Commissioners who don’t like our good business suggestions and review. We are also there as often as possible at issues workshops, hearings and preliminary presentations.
  7. We often engage Federal and State representatives who can and will take our messages and good business suggestions back to county leadership using alternate messaging.
  8. We reach out through emails such as these and contribute Letters to the Editor and Guest Columns on a frequent basis. We receive and appreciate taxpayer feedback from many people who call, write or just spread our words on behalf of good government when taxpayer voices need to be heard.
  9. The CCFC continues to work with law enforcement on issues of suspected public corruption. We work with the Property Appraiser on issues of questionable assessments and exemptions that may amount to criminal fraud. We work with Constitutional Officers to continually present positive, alternative, good business methods and alternatives to help keep Franklin County taxes under better control.
  10. We engage professionals (lawyers, investigators, additional accountants) to further our mission of good, honest, representative government for Franklin County.
  11. CCFC built, maintains and operates an independent website which may be found at ABetterFranklin.com. We incur substantial mailing and other expenses to help bring taxpayers the news, behavior, decisions and actions of Franklin County Commissioners, elected Constitutional officers and other leadership.

Annually, we reach out to the community at large for help in meeting the financial challenges of continuing our work.

Many members support us with dues payment of $100 or more to ensure our continued success. But we will successfully and carefully put into action whatever you can contribute (perhaps $25, $50, $75) which will allow our year-round work to continue. We need your financial help to ensure that good government in Franklin County can and will become a reality.

Please support our important work efforts made on your behalf by putting your membership dues contribution in the mail today! Make your check payable to the CCFC and mail it to P.O. Box 990, Eastpoint Florida 32328 while it is top of mind.

(Dues are not deductible for income tax purposes)

Thank you for your generous support.

Sincerely,

Allan J. Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.

CCFC - Budget Workshop

on Monday, 18 July 2016. Posted in News from the President

Mid-Summer Happenings

Hello Everyone:

Oh joy! It’s that time of the year again when the public gets to take part and/or observe the county preliminary budget process. Next week at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday the 19th of July and Wednesday at 9:00 a.m., your CCFC will be representing the taxpayers as they try to work out a just budget for the County Commission and Constitutional Officers. The Florida Constitution requires your County Commissioners to approve all Constitutional Officer Budgets. There is a reason for that. There is a built in conflict of interest between the leader of a constitutional office and the financial needs of the people. The founders of Florida understood that issue and made your Commissioners the arbiter of “how much is enough.”

While the final budget requests are not yet available for us to view and review, we do know that the largest component of the budget will be the Sheriff’s. The Sheriff is requesting a budget busting increase on top of the increase granted last year. We can’t see it. I have attached an analysis of problematic areas we are concerned with and will challenge next week. A couple of budget busters the outgoing Sheriff has built-in to his budget is the purchase five new vehicles a year instead of the traditional three and 10% raises for his Lieutenants and 5% raises for his Sergeants. Keep in mind, that the county itself almost always delivers an across the Board raise or bonus on top of this. It’s no wonder that virtually all the highest paying jobs in the county are government. Coupled with an extremely generous package of benefits, have we effectively separated the haves (government workers) from the have not’s (the rest of us)?

The County Tax Digest (all the taxable property in the county) as appraised by the Property Appraiser will show an overall 3-4 percent increase in the taxable value of properties. Some will see a slight decrease, but most of us will see a substantial rise in the value of their properties after many years of flat or decreasing values. That’s good news and bad news. Everyone wants their property to go up in value but don’t want a bigger tax bill as a result. The shell game the County plays is the misleading “I won’t raise your taxes.” Since the value of a home may increase 4% or more, if the Commissioners pass the same millage rate as last year, you’ll pay more and they will tell you they did not raise taxes. That’s not true. The only way a Commissioner can say they did not raise taxes is if they vote for and pass what is described as the Rollback Rate. The rollback rate is designed to bring in the same amount of revenue as the current year and adjusts the millage rate to achieve that.

I have been informed by at least one Commissioner that they want to raise taxes to meet the needs of the Sheriff and Hospital. Yes, our old friends Weems and the Emergency Management Services that they control, are hemorrhaging money and need more money than just the 1% Healthcare Trust Fund is currently providing. Now, there is an effort to take more ad valorem tax money to fund the existing three ambulances (an increased subsidy was provided for exactly that purpose three years ago) or Weems will be forced to borrow even more money from the Trust Fund that ostensibly was to pay for capital improvements and new construction, but is well on the way to being depleted due to ongoing emergency needs.

These two drivers (known to us at this time) are set to enable Commissioners to raise taxes on us all. Keep in mind that Franklin County is one of the top five spending counties per capita in the State. We are not a poor county, we just act like it.

Please join me at next week’s Budget Workshops as we discuss individual budgets. The Tuesday Workshop is to agree on Non-Governmental Entity contributions like the Humane Society, Meals-on-Wheels and many other worthy organizations that get at least some of their support from the County. The main event is Wednesday morning when we hit the bigger budget requests. If you can come for only a few hours, then Wednesday morning is preferable.

Too often, it appears as if the CCFC is anti-government at these workshops. County Commissioners should be the watchdogs, but they don’t see the hundreds of pages of documents in the budget until a few days or even the same day of the workshops. Often, they don’t understand what they see and rely on those asking for funding from them. Every county department and Constitutional Office tends to look out for themselves; it’s the nature of government. Ultimately, you are the watchdogs that either enable or restrain government from taking more than it needs.

Thank you for continuing support as the CCFC attempts to bring greater transparency, fiscal responsibility and accountability on behalf of Franklin County officials and voters. If you haven’t already, please don’t forget to renew your CCFC membership this month. We depend on your support!

Please feel free to download the Analysis Speadsheet for the Workshop Here

Sincerely,

Allan J. Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O. Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
ABetterFranklin.com
(850) 653-5571

“The Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc. serves as a citizens’ advocate to ensure that our Franklin County governments are more open, affordable, efficient, and responsive to our citizens. The organization seeks to hold public officials accountable for their actions in the administration of their duties and in their fiduciary responsibilities to the taxpayers.”

CCFC Fundraiser Letter to County

on Tuesday, 08 November 2016.

Good Afternoon Fellow Franklin County Property Owners:

2016 has been another active year for our Association but marks the first stirrings of a lack of fiscal restraint returning. Six of seven governmental agencies in Franklin County raised their millage rates this year, with only Alligator Point Water going for the rollback rate. The CCFC represents those without a voice on matters of financial propriety, transparency, efficiency and public corruption in Franklin County. We work with Commissioners, Hospital Board and other elected officials throughout the year. If you ever had the feeling that you were powerless to affect change, that’s where we come in. We hold elected officials to account and influence the debate. Let me share with you some the highlights for this past year:

Annual Budget: The budget process went much too smoothly this year. Little introspection, lack of goal setting and a general feeling of “With property values increasing, let’s take some more money” predominated. I personally spoke to three Commissioners about asking for options from the Finance Office to save ½ million dollars on the county’s $50 million budget and received no support. Why? The Sheriff’s Office once again received a substantial raise in budget this year which we could see primarily as personnel cost increases. The issue of double dipping, i.e. Constitutional Officers giving raises to their employees and then taking an additional across the board raise from the County Commission should stick in everyone’s craw more than anything else. Just taking the obvious step of eliminating double raises would have saved the county $150,000. The CCFC believes there could have been a greater reduction in the millage rate, but it was not to be. We thank those that turned out in support for their participation. This is an example of the CCFC saving you money on taxes!

Health Care: A year later and nothing has changed except for a larger deficit. Weems total liabilities stand at $2.4 million and lost $2.335 million this last fiscal year. (before county subsidies) As we stated last year, the Weems Hospital System needs to be depoliticized and a cap put on the cost to the citizens of Franklin County. With Weems currently eating up the capital portion of the Healthcare Trust Fund for operational needs, the current course is unsustainable. The proposed renovation/additions will not change the income matrix appreciably, but will add costs, further exacerbating the problem. Weems clinics are doing even worse both financially and operationally. Weems East is close to collapse and can’t even agree what services to deliver. Promises of a risk sharing partner coming in to bail out the hospital are pipe dreams we fear.

Outreach: Each year I speak with dozens of people in public and private settings explaining the need and mission of our organization. In addition, we answer questions and assist when possible with members’ issues with Franklin County. We were shocked to learn earlier this year how many potentially fraudulent property tax emptions have been filed with the Property Assessor among other questionable practices. There simply are not enough properties paying taxes in Franklin. This costs us all in higher millage rates. In 2017, working with the Property Assessor will be a major push for the CCFC.

Annually, we reach out to the community at large for help in meeting the financial challenges of continuing the work of the CCFC. We engage professionals to further our mission (lawyers, accountants and investigators) we maintain and operate our website (www.abetterfranklin.com), and there are substantial mailing and other expenses to continue the work. Many members support us with dues payment of $100 or more to ensure our continued success. But whatever you can contribute, perhaps $25, $50, $75, will allow our year round work to ensure that good government for Franklin County becomes a reality. Please support our important work by citizens and for citizens by putting your check in the mail today! Make your check payable to the CCFC and mail it to P.O. Box 990, Eastpoint Florida 32328 while it is top of mind. Please feel free to share this letter with your friends; encourage them to join the CCFC. We represent you and you alone.

Thank you for your generous support. Dues are not deductible for income tax purposes.


Sincerely,
Allan J. Feifer—President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O. Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
ABetterFranklin.com - (850) 653-5571

Click Here to download PDF Version of Letter

Crisis at Weems Hospital

on Saturday, 28 January 2017.

Hello Everyone:

The vast majority of healthcare in Franklin County is delivered by Doctors and Hospitals from out of county. Of the care delivered inside the county Weems East and West, the Health Department and various private Doctors and Nurses deliver the bulk of in county healthcare. I hear report after report of people happy with the clinics (at least until lately) and unhappy with Weems Hospital itself. We are not going to beat up on Weems Hospital today since it’s unfortunately imploding on its own. Daily overnight stays averaging one 1⁄2 per night, an 85 person staff and many primary services simply unavailable at the Hospital continue to be the real reason Weems is unable to attract enough patients and Doctors to be viable. Today, I simply want to report to you what is happening in county meetings this last week.

Tuesday at the normal county commission meeting, Commissioner Noah Lockley made a motion to terminate the management contract with TMH effective immediately, which was subsequently modified to the end of the contract between TMH and Weems. I guess no one was keeping up with the paperwork, because when they looked up the termination date, they found that it had already passed on January 2nd . Last Friday January the 20th, a special meeting was held of the County Commissioners to decide what to do. Hospital Management had told employees that the hospital was going to close if they did not make their voices heard at the Friday meeting. County Commissioners were not happy. The following is some of my notes from that meeting:

  1. CEO and CFO not present. Chairman Parrish says they are no longer employed. (this will have changed by end of meeting)
  2. Commissioner Sanders talked about why we are here today. Explained to audience what's happening with the relationship with TMH and it’s not about the hospital. She expressed her desire to put interim management in.
  3. Chairman Parrish says we need a management agreement with someone. He supports an agreement with TMH. Hospital will close without a management contract. Parrish wants to have TMH takeover completely, taking the Commission out of the loop. Smokey was agitated and wants an end to the current issues constantly being brought before the Board. Smokey says the county has a mandate from the citizens to provide healthcare.
  4. Commissioner Lockley expressed his reservations as to the accuracy of the hospital's financial reporting. He stated that the two people getting paid by TMH (the CEO and CFO) are not delivering results and should not be getting the benefit package they receive. Lockley defended his motion to terminate the management contract, talking to the many hospital employees in the audience.
  5. Commissioner Massey says the workers never hear the true story from hospital management. He also said that Cooper sent an email to the Board last week that they will need more money from the Capital side of the Trust Fund within a month or two. This may be the proximate cause as to why this is coming to a head.
  6. Commissioner Jones said he wants somebody who is knowledgeable and can take responsibility to take over. Wants to give up control in exchange for getting out of the hospital business. Board is for quality healthcare.
  7. Parrish proposed that the management contract be extended by 60 days to allow for a management contract to be negotiated with TMH. What he really meant was someone to lease the hospital and to take over full financial responsibility with some caveats.
  8. Jim Bachrach spoke and said TMH has no interest in taking over the hospital itself. That they needed a partner to make this viable with expertise in Critical Care Access.
  9. I spoke to the issue at hand from the CCFC's point of view. Several other supporters of the hospital spoke as well. Approximately 75 people in the audience. I had written up a position paper and gave it to all Commissioners prior to the meeting. I praised the decision to go out and seek an entity to take over but expressed that only talking to TMH limited our ability to negotiate and could lead to us not having anyone to move forward with in sixty days and being in the position of being up against the wall. I specifically suggested that talking to other neighbor healthcare systems could not hurt us and could only help us understand the issues and what is reasonable to expect and what is not.
  10. Motion by Lockley to extend the agreement with TMH by 60 days while negotiations with TMH go forward passed.

For years now, the CCFC has focused on the financial numbers. Those numbers tell us that no one can run Weems profitably. Weems receives approximately $2 million a year in various subsidies and that’s not enough. Weems has current Accounts Payable of about $2 million owed to vendors, the County and TMH with no real ability to pay that back. While everyone says that quality healthcare for the citizens of Franklin County is a priority, the decisions taken and the care delivered belie that assertion.

Thank you for your support of the CCFC. Not a member? No problem, click on... http://abetterfranklin.com/index.php/join-ccfc Join today. We depend on your support!
Membership dues are not tax deductible.

Thank you for your support!

Sincerely,

Allan J. Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O. Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
ABetterFranklin.com
(850) 653-5571

“The Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc. serves as a citizens’ advocate to ensure that our Franklin County governments are more open, affordable, efficient, and responsive to our citizens. The organization seeks to hold public officials accountable for their actions in the administration of their duties and in their fiduciary responsibilities to the taxpayers.”

Commissioner Contacts:
Cheryl Sanders - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 697-2534
Chairman-Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790
Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861
Commissioner Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452
Commissioner William Massey - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861
Please feel free to redistribute this email to your friends!

The Continuing Crisis at Weems Hospital

on Friday, 17 February 2017.

Hello Everyone:

The following is an open letter than I am sending to our membership and friends. Next Tuesday the 21st of February at 9:00 a.m. in the courthouse annex the County Commission will meet for its second meeting of the month. It is my hope that the county will address the issues I have laid out in my email to them today. If you can attend, please do. Read what I have written below and please send me your comments.

To Our Commissioners:

Thank you for addressing the continuing debacle at Weems. With the departure last week of the CFO at Weems and TMH’s decision this week to not entertain an agreement with the county on running Weems; we find ourselves at an impasse. It is true that the ballot initiative some 10 years ago promised a new hospital to the people of Franklin County. The Chairman has eloquently expressed his desire to fulfil that pledge. What is currently planned is not a new Hospital and the people understand that what is contemplated amounts to a renovation and addition, not a new hospital. That promise to the people has already been broken. We have no way forward to building a new hospital, fully equipped and staffed at the level of a hospital like Sacred Heart as just an example. The cost to do so including matching services of other full service hospitals would cost upwards of $25 million. And, where would the patients and staff come from? 40% of our employees today live out of county I was recently told. Everyone has to understand that. If the Renovation and Additions move forward, we will still have no operating rooms or surgeons, no physical therapy, no dialysis, no digital imaging and on and on. With this starting point we then look at the millions of dollars currently owed with no reasonable expectation that we can catch up, and with the further expectation that we will continue to deplete the Capital Portion of the Healthcare Trust Fund going forward. How can things get worse?

They can. On March 7th the contract extension agreement with TMH expires. Do we have any assurance that TMH will extend that agreement and are commissioners even ok with an extension? At least one Commissioner has expressed a desire to change the CEO’s compensation plan. What is our plan should Mike Cooper leave without notice? I am not saying that he will, but we’ve been there before. There are a lot of balls in the air and the Commission needs to take a no nonsense stand on what our options are. Punting a decision down the road is unthinkable. Everyone involved knows there is a train wreck coming. The 85 employees of Weems and the Clinics deserve certainty. The citizens of Franklin County deserve certainty. Commissioners want certainty but are not doing what is required of them as the weeks and months of inaction prove only so well. Recently one Commissioner made a motion to go out for a Request for Proposals to manage and assume financial risk. That motion died for lack of a second. Why? The fact that you are a collective body has hindered the process to date. I hope this coming Tuesday this body of good people decides to act in the best interest of Franklin County Citizens as they do on most everything else. There are options. There are answers. Step one is realizing, finally realizing, that this problem is not going away whether we wish it to or not. The most important promise that was made to the people was one of access to good health care. You can still do that and never be ashamed of breaking promises. Let’s not act under crisis. We still have a short window to plan and execute. I hope this issue is fully discussed at next Tuesday’s meeting followed by a Workshop

Thank you,

Allan Feifer Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.

There you have it. BIS may be the technique that finally breaks up this logjam. BIS is Butts in Seats. If the Commission sees that their constituents are paying attention, they are more likely to act. Show Commissioners that you are unwilling to pay higher property taxes to support a ship sinking under its own weight. After the Trust Fund is depleted you are next. Even more importantly, demand better healthcare outcomes than we receive today. Good health should be a fundamental demand for the money we are already paying.

Thank you for your support of the CCFC. Not a member?
No problem, click on… http://abetterfranklin.com/index.php/join-ccfc Join today. We depend on your support!
Membership dues are not tax deductible. Thank you for your support!

Sincerely,
Allan J. Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O. Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
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ABetterFranklin.com
(850) 653-5571

“The Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc. serves as a citizens’ advocate to ensure that our Franklin County governments are more open, affordable, efficient, and responsive to our citizens. The organization seeks to hold public officials accountable for their actions in the administration of their duties and in their fiduciary responsibilities to the taxpayers.”

Commissioner Contacts:
Cheryl Sanders - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 697-2534
Chairman-Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790
Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861
Commissioner Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452
Commissioner William Massey - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861
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Letter to the Editor in the Apalachicola Times

on Tuesday, 28 February 2017.

For more than 10 years, the Concerned Citizens of Franklin County (CCFC) has consistently advocated for improved healthcare in Franklin County. The quality of healthcare -- outcomes -- lag behind Gulf and Wakulla counties in many indices. The citizens of the community deserve better -- because our quality of life is often defined by our overall health.

At the second and final County Commission meeting of February, towards the end of the meeting, county attorney Michael Shuler quietly asked the Commission for authority to start negotiations with an unnamed and unknown third party to take over Weems Hospital. County officials did not disclose what had transpired since the first Commission meeting of the month. In that short two-week period, Dana Whaley the Nurse Practitioner Specialist in Carrabelle quit, the Chief Financial Officer of Weems quit and Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare informed the County that it was unwilling to make any management deals directly with the County.

The steady erosion of confidence in Weems Hospital and the Clinics continues unabated. To any objective observer, Weems is in freefall, with nothing but continual injections of taxpayers’ money keeping the doors open. Weems has over $2 million in current liabilities. The hospital mischaracterizes its financials by not including the approximate $900,000 borrowed from the Capital portion of the Healthcare Trust Fund over the last 14 months incorrectly as a long term liability. However, promises have been continually made to Commissioners that as soon as this or that money comes in, it will all be repaid.

Casting a long shadow over everything else is that the Employment Agreement with TMH that pays the current CEO and until recently also paid the CFO is or will be expiring on March 7th. In the absence of an extension, the current CEO has stated he will not work directly for the County; either the contract gets extended or he’s out on that day. And, the county has a weak hand in dealing with TMH. TMH is currently owed in excess of $650,000 in unpaid money for the agreement we now expect them to extend.

Against this backdrop, the County Commission could not find time to discuss contingency planning and what’s in the best interest of the citizens of Franklin County. During the Public Comments section of the last meeting, former Carrabelle Mayor Mel Kelly spoke specifically of the need to view the Franklin County healthcare situation as a whole system on behalf of comprehensive delivery of services. Instead, Kelly explained, administration/leaders are perpetually operating in a crisis management mode over repeated, separate challenges such as provider staffing and salaries, underused building facilities, equipment replacement and maintenance, billing/accounting software companies, mandates and other issues.

As President of the CCFC, I spoke too many of these issues Tuesday. Please view this segment on our website http://abetterfranklin.com/index.php/ccfc-videos. The CCFC will have those comments posted on our ABetterFranklin.com website soon.

Putting a cherry on top of all of this, at the conclusion of my remarks, Commissioner Lockley blurted out: “You and Mel Kelley can go back from where you came from.” Not a word of censure or rebuke was heard from the Chairman who stated “let him have his three minutes.” I have no quarrel with Commissioners Sanders, Massey or Jones, as I think they “get it.” One other Commissioner stated “we’ve done everything we know to do.” I respect the Commissioner who said that. But, you don’t get points for “Best Efforts”; you get points for a successful outcome.

Throwing money at a problem is not a strategy; it is the absence of one. It is arrogance of power when elected officials tell citizens “go back where you came from.” The TDC recently changed our county’s motto to “The Forgotten Coast.” We spend millions on improving our County’s image. But an ugly, outrageous statement like that is the worst kind of message and uncovers a naked truth about Franklin County: some of our ‘leaders’ don’t actually care about or like the people they serve, particularly those “outsiders.” Thousands of people have come to live, work, volunteer or retire in Franklin County over the years. Those “outsiders” who employ many locals and pay the vast majority of taxes, have now been told to sit at the back of the bus and keep their mouth shut.

That’s not democracy. It is despicable demagoguery and abuse of the bully pulpit to just be a blustering bully.

I hope two things come out of this ugliness. First, that the Board of County Commissioners apologizes for the insult to citizens not born here but who have greatly contributed to the quality of life in the community. This is not the first time this particular Commissioner has said something similar, nor has he been the only one. Second, the Commission should hire an Independent third party healthcare consultancy to immediately assess the state of health care in Franklin County. The follow-on project should be to identify resources and potential partners to meet the needs of Franklin County citizens while protecting their wallets. Only through a methodical third party approach that does not predetermine the outcome will the “right” answers be forthcoming.

Allan Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.

Finding Change in the Cushions:

on Tuesday, 15 August 2017.

Our County taxes are again on the rise.

Franklin County is returning to the old days of allowing increasing property values to result in unnecessary high tax collections. What will this mean to your own household finances and why are elected officials deliberately allowing this to happen to us all, again?

After attending the budget workshops for this upcoming fiscal year, I came to realize that county leadership is not scrutinizing spending and costs as it was forced to do when we were in crisis mode after the last real estate collapse. And, with over eleven hundred property tax certificates sold on the courthouse steps this year, (citizens that could not afford to pay their property taxes) it is clear that Franklin county citizens and property owners are still hurting economically. We believe taxes are unnecessarily high due to lack of responsible fiscal management at the county level. To again increase taxes on homes and businesses beyond last year’s increases comes from either mismanagement or a lack of focus on the importance of fiscal discipline.

Here is some background information for you to consider: The County Tax Digest (the value of all taxable properties) bottomed out in the 2013/2014 budget year at $1.632 billion. Since then, it has been slowly rising: this year’s Tax Digest is estimated at $1.825 billion - more than a 10% increase. (And remember there are other new fees and taxes also available and used in county budgeting IN ADDITION TO THE TRADITIONAL FUNDING WELL OF AD VALOREM MONIES; they include Tourism’s bed tax, Sales, Gasoline and Health Care taxes, grants and other significant revenue resources.

So, the 2013-14 county budget was $43.584 million but the new proposed budget for 2017-18 has increased to $52.259 million. (That is a 20% Increase over four years.) Ad Valorem tax collection is proposed to be increased by 9% over that same four years. This all means that additional monies may be unnecessarily taxed on you.

It is also important to keep in mind that the millage rate – assessed on you by the county commissioners to partially pay for the budget they approve –can result in your taxes being further increased as well. For example, in that earlier 2013/2014 period, millage was set at 6.4705 mills. Now, the proposed millage has been set at 6.3065 mills. Although 6.4 to 6.3% seems like a reduction, remember it is now set on a higher individual property assessment that grew from $1.6 to 1.8 billion. So, the proposed ‘lower’ millage rate taxes for FY 2017-18 will really add another 3-5% increase to your upcoming tax bill! This will be the third tax increase in three years, with little or no effort demonstrated by county leadership to cut costs or reduce expenses!

What does this all mean?

The 2017-18 gap - which could be better managed to reach what budget ‘wonks’ call the Roll Back Rate - is about $500,000 (less than 1% of spending.) in savings or recoupments. If that 1% was saved by good fiscal management and oversight from the latest proposed $52 million budget, most people would see no tax increase this year.

But sadly, there has been no direction to staff to help find ways to close that gap. To the watchdog CCFC, that is the definition of unconscionable. If commissioners don’t even attempt to find any savings, we will face another tax increase as in the last three years. 3-5 percent may not sound like a lot but that is cumulative, compounding each and every year. Such reckless and negligent fiscal management is calculated to raise as much money as possible while passing-the-expenses buck to the taxpayers, who will be expected to pay up compliantly, yet again. The county is relatively prosperous now, with no emergencies forecast on the horizon (except maybe for Weems Hospital or potential hurricane hit.) Now is the time to rein in spending.

It’s their money to spend, but it is yours to pay! Let’s ask them to manage OUR monies better, as most of us have to do in our own households.

To see suggestions we believe commissioners and elected officials can accomplish potential reductions in spending, please go the CCFC’s website at ABetterFranklin.com/savings and take a thoughtful look. Between now and Budget Adoption Hearings in September, we hope to encourage real fiscal accountability by our elected leaders. If you agree with us that savings must be identified and maintained to hold taxes stable without UNNECEESSARY increases, tell your Commissioner to work for the Rollback rate. (By the way, we hear the School Board will also be delivering a millage rate increase to further increase those taxes. Demand fiscal responsibility from your School Board representative as well!)

Accept nothing less. Again, it’s YOUR money!

We invite you to join the Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc. to add your voice of support to our watchdog group. Only with citizen numbers in attendance at annual budget hearings – and regular commission meetings - will we have the most positive effect on our commissioners and constitutional officers. Good government only happens in the sunshine. Shine a little bit of your own light to encourage local government to be fiscally accountable to the taxpayers they serve. By your presence and interest, you will let them know we are watching their choices and actions on behalf of all of Franklin County!

The first Budget Adoption Hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, September 5th at 5:15 in the new Courthouse Annex. These hearings typically don’t last a long time but your presence and your personal demand for the rollback rate at this hearing is very important. If it is just me sitting alone in the audience, Commissioners take the cue that you don’t mind having your taxes hiked.

I hope you do mind.

Regards,
Allan Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County

Who are Franklin County’s Aristocrats?

on Friday, 22 September 2017.

As a watcher of the political scene for the past 13 years or so, I’ve seen the ups and downs of political life in our beautiful county. As a county, we are poor but proud. For outsiders, life is pretty good. But, for many multi-generational locals, choices are limited and opportunities much too rare.

Let’s talk a bit about why that is and what can be done about it. You might think the aristocrats are the moneyed outsiders who come here to enjoy the spectacular scenery and relaxed lifestyle that our county is famous for. But while these individuals do a significant share of the charity, volunteering and most importantly, paying the taxes that support other people who are not so fortunate, they are not the Aristocrats of Franklin County. So who is?

I did not come up with the term Aristocrats on my own. It was a hospital worker who once described to me the lack of benefits at Weems and the apparent lack of interest (real or imagined) for their personal safety by county leaders, i.e. The Aristocrats. I remembered that person’s comment.

The Aristocrats of Franklin County are comprised of two groups: The first are certain old family individuals who have enjoyed the gift of opportunities not available to “normal folk,” job preferences, loans at the locally controlled banks (less so today), political pull, access to real estate deals and favorable outcomes from county and city government.

The second are the hundreds of county, city, school and hospital employees, and at the apex, elected officials who enjoy higher paying jobs, job security, great benefits and frequently a much less stressful work life. To be perfectly clear, what is true of the whole is not necessarily true of the specific. There are county employees who work very hard and are low paid for the work they do. There is a continuing and significant disparity in county government that generally favors constitutional employees over the various county departments. There are major variations in pay for similar work.

Years ago, the county spent many thousands of dollars on a comprehensive compensation plan designed to treat employees without favoritism or ambiguity. It stills sits on the shelf because that document would take away the power that resides with county commissioners at present and certain leaders won’t allow that to happen.

Most counties in Florida have a county manager who runs the day-to-day activities of government. However, Franklin County has neither a county manager nor code enforcement officer, leading to direct management by county commissioners. This is by design and a holdover from days long gone and needs to change to more efficiently and fairly meet the needs of individual citizens and the county as a whole.

There is a bit of Marie Antoinette in some of our county leaders. Recently, I witnessed commissioners not even respond to requests to look at an ever-growing budget that has led to an increase in taxes for the last three years. And, don’t let them fool you with “we did not raise the millage rate,” either. This year, as in last year, more money is being taken from taxpayers to cover a $52 million budget, up almost $2 million over last year’s spending. Commissioners did not even ask staff for potential reductions in spending to close a half-million dollar gap.

According to Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research; latest figures show tiny, rural Franklin County ranks as the seventh highest taxer per capita in the state. Why is that?

I can see France’s Marie Antoinette saying “Let them eat cake” as commissioners are wined and dined in Washington D.C. and at Florida Association of Counties’ extravaganzas, among other privileged events you pay for and can’t attend.

Our Constitution supports the concept of “Citizen Statesman.” You remember from your elementary school days “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.” As such, every citizen is equal to every elected official. No one should be afraid or intimidated to address their commissioners but too many in Franklin County worry about retribution, which has been carried out in the past. I know of this personally. Further, it is the height of arrogance for an elected official to publicly engage in constituent bashing in a public forum (I’ve seen that multiple times) while enjoying the best jobs in the county. When any elected official somehow comes to feel they are above questioning, reproach, accountability or a duty to engage with those they are representing; they need to find a new line of work. There should be no difference between an old line citizen and someone who just purchased property; that’s both the law and is at the core of our American way of life. There are no second-class citizens; we are all supposed to be equal.

The Concerned Citizens of Franklin County continually seeks to engage local government on issues of financial and economic development. Our voice is your voice. If you have been ignored or treated unfairly by your elected officials, I’d like to hear from you. Please contact me through ABetterFranklin.com. It is your government and our elected Aristocrats that must be reminded from time-to-time that they are servants of the people and not the other way around.

Allan J. Feifer
President

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