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Former Sheriff Ed Dean takes on complicated task of winding down MRMC


By 
Managing editor, Ocala Star Banner
Published: Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 4:46 p.m.


http://www.ocala.com/article/20130725/ARTICLES/130729827?tc=cr

When Health Management Associates assumes control of Munroe Regional Medical Center from the Marion County Hospital District in the fall, the hospital district won't just go dark.

In fact, the citizen trustees appointed to oversee the hospital district say the process of handing over Munroe to the Naples-based company is a complex process of tying up loose ends.

There are vendor contracts that must be cancelled, outstanding patient bills that must be collected, employee pensions that must be closed out and more. But the hospital district doesn't have any paid staffers to handle these chores.

So the trustees recently tapped former Sheriff Ed Dean -- who has experience in the law, finance and business -- to help them deal with this tsunami of details.

And they got an unexpected bonus when Dean agreed to do it for free.

"They asked me, and I thought about it. It is a rather large task they have ahead of them for the wind-down," Dean said Thursday. "I came back to them and said I think I can help you but let me volunteer my services and see what I can do."

He quickly discovered that it won't be an easy task.

For instance, like every hospital, Munroe has to submit to audits to ensure that its admissions were proper. The hospital must justify each of the hundreds of admissions that Medicare audits.

HMA won't provide the staff and resources to justify admissions made before it took over Munroe, so it falls to the Hospital District to do so. Dean probably won't handle those audits himself but will recommend a course of action, which may involve hiring a firm with experience defending hospitals in these audits.

Dean will also have to recommend what to do about the 1,000-plus contracts that Munroe currently has with vendors and workers.

"HMA has to determine which ones it will assume and which ones it will not," Dean said. "And then the ones it will not assume, we will have to unwind."

In addition, there are years worth of financial and public records that must be preserved and protected, and the pensions of Munroe employees will have to be closed out when they become employees of HMA and enroll in that company's pension plan.

Dean said he has started talking to officials at other hospitals who turned their operations over to HMA to tap into their experience dealing with identical issues. Those include Bayfront Medical Center, which became an HMA property last year, and Sparks Regional Medical Center in Arkansas.

In many ways, Dean is well suited for this work.

A lawyer by trade, he provided legal services to several hospitals throughout Florida, including two in Sarasota and the publicly owned Marion County Hospital District here.

He also worked as an executive in the private sector. He was vice president of operations for Townley Manufacturing southeast of Ocala from 1975 to 1979; was vice president of Kysor Industrial Corporation; returned to Townley Manufacturing in 1983; and co-founded Pro Poly of America, a manufacturer of fire truck components, in 1996. Along the way, he also founded his own law firm, Dean & Dean, P.A.

Dean is best known, however, as the longtime sheriff of Marion County. Although he had never held public office and had never been a police officer, Dean was appointed to fill the remainder of Sheriff Ken Ergle's term when Ergle was arrested for embezzling public funds.

Even during his time as sheriff, Dean was involved in several high-profile efforts to transform local health care services.

When local hospitals complained that their emergency rooms were clogged with thousands of patients who simply didn't have any access to routine medical care, Dean led a private effort to create a community clinic that today serves thousands of low-income people a year under the name Heart of Florida Health Centers.

Complaints about poor inmate care at the Marion County Jail also prompted Dean to expel the private medical group that was providing the service and create a new group made up of local medical professionals.

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