Letters to the Editor - Jan. 1

Published: Thursday, January 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 at 11:29 p.m.

Don't close ‘our' hospital

Your hospital, AGH is about to be shut down by the Board of Shands UF. This is a travesty and cannot be allowed to happen.

Most of the sentiment in The Sun's Virtual Town Hall meeting discussion was for saving it and for the right reasons: It is our hospital, not theirs.

My daughter was born there almost 25 years ago. I have patients who were born there, their kids were born there, and their grand kids were born there.

There are employees there who have been there before I arrived 30 years ago, and a number who have been there almost that long. None of them want to work at Shands.

My patients by and large don't want to go there either, and they want to know where I will be admitting them if it closes.

AGH has been the highest rated hospital in this town ever since I was a resident and before. It used to have a pediatric floor on the west wing separate from the maternity floor where the newborns and the mothers were. That went away when all the pediatricians left for North Florida hospital.

Most of the other specialties have left recently, one by one after having been driven away by the attitudes of Shands board members.

Of course, when the doctors leave, their patients leave with them, so naturally the hospital will lose money. The specialties include Urology, Infectious Disease, Gastroenterology, Orthopedics, Pulmonary, Radiology, and most of the Surgeons. Cardiology remains and some of the specialties have been replenished with Shands faculty people, but its not like it used to be with doctors I practiced with for 20 and 30 years.

AGH did extremely well for the 23 years that it was managed by Santa Fe Healthcare. It stayed in the black, kept the outlying hospitals in Starke, Lake City and Live Oak afloat with it.

Since Shands took it over, in 1996, it has gone straight downhill. Incompetent management or purposeful destruction has brought it to where it is now; on life support, hanging on by a thread.

It is up to you to save it because it is ours. It is our legacy for the past 80 years.

It is the responsibility of the County Commission to assert its authority and rescind what is in effect a management agreement for Shands to run the hospitals.

The Shands Board isn't going to stop with AGH. Live Oak will be next on the list to close. So its time to get mad and get to work on the County Commission.

William H. Warrick III, M.D.


A different model for a Gainesville children's hospital

Kudos to The Gainesville Sun for an in-depth look at the possibilities for a children's hospital in our city!

However, the article does not discuss options that seem more realistic and less expensive than the scenario presented.

The University of Michigan's new children's hospital will cost $750 million as a free-standing building with 348 beds.

An alternative that we, the faculty members within pediatrics, have repeatedly suggested for Gainesville is for a linked tower on the Health Science Center campus.

Such a children's tower does not need to duplicate expensive items such as MRI scanners, cardiac catheterization labs, etc. that are already present and accessible within the main hospital structure. The tower does not have to hold 350 beds. Many children's free standing hospitals are 150-200 beds in size. The price tag for such a linked tower would probably be less than $200 million.

Madison, Wisconsin and Ann Arbor, Michigan are both university towns. They compete with Milwaukee and Detroit, nearby larger cities with existing children's hospitals. Yet these towns still built new children's hospitals.

The University of Michigan is going to raise only $75 million (one-tenth of their total price tag) from philanthropy, the rest coming from other sources. The state of Michigan is faced with equally daunting economic pressures as the state of Florida. Other children's hospitals in Florida are building new facilities in this environment. What do they know that we don't?

While we currently have a fine pediatric department, the lack of an optimal facility hinders our ability to recruit the best children's health care professionals. Departures of existing care providers to institutions with dedicated children's facilities could leave our city without the children's care that we value so much.

Vikas Dharnidharka, M.D.,

Department of Pediatrics

University of Florida

City leaders fondly remembered

The year 2008 was hard on former Gainesville mayor-commissioners.

The Sun had much to say about the death of Clark Butler, a mid-century commissioner and a most important late-1900s developer in our city and elsewhere.

Although less was said about the death of Bobbie Lisle Klein, she is entitled to be remembered as the first female mayor-commissioner. But more than that, Bobbie was a well informed and dedicated advocate of responsive government in our city.

The closely spaced deaths of Gary Junior and Bill Howard mirrored their paths in service to Gainesville. Gary and Bill served together on the City Commission and later opposed each other in an election that Gary won.

On the surface these men were about as far apart as politics can divide. Bill was a Wisconsin-born, Ph.D. holding, "liberal" university professor, and Gary a southern- born, self-made, "conservative" business man.

But beneath the surface, both men were ardent supporters of the propositions that government's role is to make life better for the governed people — particularly those less able to fend for themselves — and to do it efficiently and with a light touch upon the people's purses and freedoms.

Bill and Gary were staunch family men. Both had large families and lived father and grandfather roles that all men should yearn to emulate. In their public lives, these men were smart, hard working, innovative and honest to a fault.

Although they have left no statues around, what they and their colleagues achieved will redound to the benefit of our community for years to come.

Gary and Bill were my close personal friends, and I will miss them. I hope our community continues to produce their like to serve in our governments.

Joe Little,


W.'s economy was pretty good

Kudos to Keith Hazouri (Speaking Out, Dec. 29) for his astute observations on the so called "Bush Recession."

People tend to forget that prior to the Democrats taking control of the Congress, the economy was just fine. The Dow was at 14,000 and unemployment was low.

To paraphrase the old saw, "if you tell people that the economy is bad long enough, eventually they will believe it." If they believe it, they will stop spending, and when they stop spending...

Robert Gault,


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