Judge upends Adventist deal to acquire public Bert Fish
A Florida judge ordered one of the state’s largest healthcare systems to unwind a controversial deal in which Adventist Health System attempted to acquire the publicly run Bert Fish Medical Center in New Smyrna Beach. Florida Seventh Judicial Circuit Judge Richard Graham ruled that Bert Fish executives illegally held 21 meetings about the merger behind closed doors to iron out details of the deal. And after the Daytona Beach
News Journal exposed the illegalities, officials with Adventist and Bert Fish exerted improper influence on a subsequent request-for-proposal process that also wound up selecting Adventist, according to the ruling. Graham noted that Bert Fish executives and advisers had strong financial incentives to steer the second round of merger talks toward Adventist, and that the first attempt at merger had put them in a position to influence the outcome of the second process. Graham’s opinion noted a major flaw in the merger paperwork that was ignored by hospital executives and would have overpaid Adventist for uncompensated care by “hundreds of millions of dollars” over the 35-year deal by including bad debt expenses as charity care, thereby double-counting the figure. Officials with Adventist and Bert Fish did not respond to calls for comment.
A judge ruled Bert Fish illegally held 21 meetings.