Miami-Dade County focuses on University of Miami lease for medical site to protect Jackson Memorial Hospital
By Zachary S. Fagenson
With Jackson Memorial Hospital still in dire straits, Miami-Dade commissioners want to make sure plans for nearby land they leased to the University of Miami in 2005 won't harm the cash-strapped public hospital's bottom line.
The commission last week voted to direct the mayor's office to report on the state of the lease between the county and the university, which has planned a medical practice building there.
"We want to try and make sure we're not putting ourselves in a position where we're giving land to someone who's going to turn around and compete with us in the medical arena," said Commissioner Barbara Jordan, who sponsored the resolution.
The land, which sits on Jackson's Health District campus, was initially leased to the university as a site for a future hospital and medical facilities.
But after the university purchased Cedars Medical Center, a new lease "consolidate[ing] two existing leases between the University of Miami and Miami-Dade County and add[ing] some additional adjoining land to that lease" was drawn, said William Donelan, vice president for medical affairs at the university's Miller School of Medicine.
After buying Cedars the university changed course, envisioning a $500 million building that included clinical facilities and an additional 100 beds for the Sylvester Cancer Center. It later pulled back to a less expensive building that added about 20 beds for the center.
Then the recession hit.
But "we still have, at a conceptual level, a plan for this scaled-back version of clinical space and a more modest expansion of the Sylvester Cancer Center," Mr. Donelan said. "Right now we're going to have to wait until the economy improves to move on it, even on a scaled-down version."
Yet whatever the university ultimately comes up with will need commission approval.
"In order for anything to take place, there has to be an agreement of both entities that what is going to be placed there is something that's suitable to be used without a competitive aspect," Ms. Jordan said. "They have to come back to the county for zoning the parcels appropriately. Then it's important we make sure that happens on the front end.
"I know they'll be able to work it out," she added.
The university, however, doesn't seem to have abandoned its plans totally.
"We will go back through a process with the Jackson management and, I would imagine, ultimately the Public Health Trust board to take them through the current conceptual plan for building out on that land," Mr. Donelan said.
But, he said, a new building would replace outdated facilities and complement existing operations rather than compete with Jackson.
"It's not a bunch of new stuff. At the end of the day Jackson is the hospital used by our faculty for a lot of the elective admissions," Mr. Donelan argued. "It's a feeder system to Jackson Memorial for insured patients."