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A torrent of talk, a droplet of sense

Which would be worse? Having your gall bladder removed without anesthesia, or attending a meeting of the Tampa General Hospital board?

Easy choice. Except you probably haven't been to the meetings.

There was Monday's, where the board gabbed four hours before voting to renew a million-dollar-plus contract with anesthesiologists from the USF medical school. But board member Burt Lowe later said the meeting was so confused, he had no idea what he was voting on and demanded another vote the next day.

So on Tuesday, since I wasn't having my gall bladder out, I stopped by. Frank Fleischer, the board chairman, was speaking:

". . . the motion that was passed that is being questioned should be the motion on the floor again, at the point, which Burt, being on the prevailing side, is raising that issue again, so it would be my, and I think, please clarify this for me, but the motion that was passed yesterday was, No. 1, the approval of the anesthesiology contract . . ."

Fleischer looked at board member and County Commissioner Jan Platt. "Jan, you're just shaking your head. That was not your understanding?"

"No," she said, "I'm just shaking my head about how bad it was . . ."

". . . If we're reconsidering yesterday's vote, on yesterday's motion," asked board member Tiny Geiger, "do we have to follow yesterday's attendees, because to me it sounds like we've got a whole new ballgame, and if it's a new ballgame, we shouldn't be restricted to the old motion yesterday . . ."

"Those who are here in attendance," answered the board's lawyer, Ralph Dell, "are the ones who would vote . . ."

"The word "reconsideration' is actually a misnomer, is that correct?" Geiger asked.

"There are entirely too many lawyers on this board," Platt said.

"There aren't enough lawyers on this board," shot back board member Jay Wolfson.

Soon somebody was shouting, "No, no, no!" and somebody else was saying, "Jay didn't make the motion."

"Yes, I did," Wolfson said.

"Oh! Yesterday!" somebody said.

"And I re-moved it," said Wolfson.

". . . It's just like if we passed something at one meeting," said board member Pat Frank. "It stays in effect until we change our minds. Yesterday's meeting, we adopted Jay's motion, that would have stayed in effect had no action taken place today . . ."

Fact was, though, nothing had happened by then, although they had been at it almost an hour and the board is stumbling into an extraordinary fight over whether the sick at Tampa's only public hospital can get cutting-edge care from doctors associated with Tampa's only medical school.

". . . So we're voting to reconsider or we're voting to vote?" asked board member Geiger.

"'We're voting first to reconsider," Frank said.

There was more chatter. The board's lawyer broke in. "I'm sorry to say I didn't hear a motion to reconsider."

"It was my understanding," Wolfson answered, "that the purpose of this meeting was to in fact clarify the vote of yesterday because there was confusion in the mind of one of the board's affirmative voting members. Therefore, I opened my statement by saying, "I move the following.' I was re-moving the motion I made yesterday . . ."

"The motion at this point is Jay's motion to, which is a restatement of the motion that was passed yesterday," said lawyer Dell.

Board member Geiger put a question to chairman Fleischer: "Frank, you said earlier you were clarifying Burt's reconsideration motion . . ."

"We are voting on the motion that was passed yesterday, and I was clarifying for the benefit of the board what that motion was yesterday, that was passed," Fleischer replied.

"There just seems to be some question whether a motion to reconsider has been made . . .," said board member Burt Lowe, whose problem Monday led to Tuesday's meeting. "I offer for I think the third time to offer that motion that is appropriate or necessary."

You know what they say about the third time being the charm. The board decided it could vote on the contract after all. The contract they loved Monday, they hated Tuesday and rejected.

Say, how's that gall bladder?

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