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TGH votes to give Karl a contract

Tampa General Hospital board members needed only two minutes Monday to unanimously agree to negotiate a long-term contract with Fred Karl, the former county administrator turned hospital president.

Karl, who was hired in November on an interim basis, is beginning discussions on a managed care network for Tampa General and was a catalyst in the ongoing state and federal investigation into allegations that former officials intentionally devalued the hospital to facilitate a sale to Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.

Karl, 71, said the hospital needs stable leadership as these matters develop.

Under his current $210,000-a-year contract, either he or the hospital board can terminate his position with 30 days notice. Karl is considering a three- or four-year contract that would carry penalties if either side backed out.

"I still have all my options open if you're ready to stop the train at this point and change conductors," Karl said.

Board members unanimously agreed they like the conductor, but suggested he run the hospital from the passenger seat. Board chairwoman Phyllis Busansky, who praises Karl's leadership but worries about his driving skills, suggested the new contract should include provisions for a chauffeur.

"I know he is always offended when I talk about his driving skills," Busansky said, but she called Karl's driving a "hair-raising experience."

Karl noted that he has been driving since he was 14 and has never had an accident. And that, he said, is more than Busansky can claim.

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