Make us your home page

Robert Trigaux: Cog in larger investigations, Bayfront Health loses control of its destiny

What did Bayfront Health step in?

That nose-pinching aroma starting to spread around the once independent Bayfront Hospital in downtown St. Petersburg comes courtesy of its majority owner of the past nine months: Health Management Associates of Naples.

Even before taking an 80 percent stake in Bayfront, HMA suffered allegations that, among other things, doctors were pressured with admission quotas to help fill the chain's hospital beds. The CBS investigative TV show 60 Minutes aired those claims, denied by HMA, in late 2012.

Not to worry, senior Bayfront officials insisted while visiting the Tampa Bay Times before the HMA deal was finalized. Bayfront did its homework and picked a top-notch parent in HMA.

Since then allegations have snowballed against HMA. An expanding federal whistle-blower investigation is under way by both the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission into claims of kickbacks at the company. Unsealed lawsuits are raising a fresh wave of accusations.

Among them: A complaint unsealed Jan. 6 alleges ex-HMA chief executive officer Gary Newsome had a "personal and direct involvement" in his company pushing emergency room staff to increase hospital admissions. That complaint, filed in South Carolina by former hospital executives, was joined by the Justice Department.

Curiously, by the time these allegations surfaced, CEO Newsome was long gone. Last summer, he retired from HMA. Not to hit the links in Naples but rather to head a Mormon mission in Uruguay, far from the mire in which HMA finds itself stuck.

That's hardly all of HMA's woes. So far, the feds have intervened in nine whistle-blower cases filed in at least five states alleging HMA paid doctors in exchange for referrals to its hospitals as well as illegally seeking to boost admissions from its emergency rooms.

Let's add another layer.

Amid its own turmoil, HMA agreed to a $3.9 billion takeover by Tennessee-based Community Health Systems. HMA shareholders last week approved that deal, which should be completed in the coming months.

At this point, it's almost amusing that the hospital chain Bayfront says it once carefully vetted stands accused by so many of such questionable behavior.

In less than a year, Bayfront went from independent local hospital to HMA captive, and now to a small cog in a deal creating the largest U.S. hospital chain by number of hospitals and No. 2 by revenue.

Nurses across the country protested the merger, alleging equipment shortages and price gouging of patients.

A study by National Nurses United found six of the nine most expensive hospitals in the country are part of Community Health and HMA.

That's probably not what Bayfront had envisioned for its future. Nor is it what the city of St. Petersburg anticipated for the hospital, a longtime provider to the poor, that operates on city-owned land.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at

Robert Trigaux: Cog in larger investigations, Bayfront Health loses control of its destiny 01/13/14 [Last modified: Monday, January 13, 2014 7:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming


    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  2. A sports rout on Wall Street


    NEW YORK — Sporting goods retailers can't shake their losing streak.

  3. Grocery chain Aldi hosting hiring event in Brandon Aug. 24


    BRANDON — German grocery chain Aldi is holding a hiring event for its Brandon store Aug. 24. It is looking to fill store associate, shift manager and manager trainee positions.

  4. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik backs film company pursuing global blockbusters


    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik's latest investment might be coming to a theater near you.

    Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner, invested in a new movie company looking to appeal to a global audience. | [Times file photo]
  5. Trigaux: Look to new Inc. 5000 rankings for Tampa Bay's future heavyweights


    There's a whole lotta fast-growing private companies here in Tampa Bay. Odds are good you have not heard of most of them.


    Kyle Taylor, CEO and founder of The Penny Hoarder, fills a glass for his employees this past Wednesday as the young St. Petersburg personal advice business celebrates its landing at No. 25 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the country. Taylor, still in his 20s, wins kudos from executive editor Alexis Grant for keeping the firm's culture innovative. The business ranked No. 32 last year. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]