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Omar Hussamy resigns from Hospital District board


Orthopedic surgeon Omar Hussamy has resigned his seat on the Indian River County Hospital District Board of Trustees just four months after being elected to a four-year term. His resignation leaves Gov. Rick Scott to name a replacement within six weeks.

Hussamy, 54, emailed his resignation to the District office last Wednesday, citing a more intensive schedule than anticipated for the volunteer position, due to the new initiative to consider selling the hospital or otherwise change its existing structure.

There was no hint of discord in his letter of resignation, which simply said he could not devote the time the post required.

“It has been a pleasure to serve the District in the short time I have been on the board,” he wrote. “Unfortunately I am unable to meet the time commitment necessary to perform my responsibilities during this critical time for health care in Indian River County.”

“He has taken on some other things besides just his employment, and so has the district since he joined,” says the Hospital District’s executive director, Ann Marie Suriano. “He’s really conscientious, and you have to be able to commit your time.”

Hussamy ran a campaign in strong opposition to the hospital’s current management, arguing for increased transparency with regard to finances and personnel. He vehemently questioned why the emergency department was losing money and cited other problems. He also believed that as a taxpayer-owned hospital, executive decisions should involve the public and financial matters should be fully accessible.

Once elected, Hussamy requested a position on the hospital’s important patient care committee but was denied, due to what the District’s attorney claimed was a conflict of interest. Hussamy, who performs surgical procedures at both Indian River Medical Center and Sebastian River Medical Center, recently sold his practice to the Sebastian hospital.

Another District Trustee, Barbara Bodnar, a physical therapist who works for Hussamy, was also denied a spot on the committee.

Hussamy was told that because the committee meeting is closed and is not open to the public, there could be a conflict “because you’re an employee of another hospital in the market. There could be strategic matters discussed,” said the District’s attorney, Jennifer Peshke.

Asked by email if his and Bodnar’s exclusion from the committee had anything to do with his resignation, Hussamy replied, “I really can’t say much more.”

"I do not think it is appropriate to be sharing strategic or confidential information with an employee of a major competitor," said IRMC’s CEO Jeff Susi explaining his view of a conflict of interest. "On a personal note, I believe Dr. Hussamy and Ms. Bodner are intelligent and thoughtful Trustees."

Now, the choice of who will replace Hussamy is left to Gov. Rick Scott, a former for-profit hospital chain CEO and a vocal critic of the Hospital District concept, and of non-profit hospitals generally.

Scott’s last appointment to the board was Dr. Val Zudans, an ophthalmologist whose public criticism of Susi continues today; he recently slammed the hospital’s management at an Indian River Taxpayers Association luncheon and last week gave a similar talk at John’s Island. Susi has said he will retire by the end of this year.

Zudans, who lost his seat in the November election, said he did not intend to apply for Hussamy’s vacated position.

“I’m not even sure whether losing candidates can apply,” said Suriano. “I’ve had several of those calling me already.”

Other candidates who lost in November include Bob Savage, a retired hospital administrator; Eugene Feinour, an incumbent trustee; Brittany Miller, another employee of Hussamy’s; and Tony Woodruff, the chairman of the Hospital Foundation board.

Suriano intends to put the word in to the governor’s appointments office that a speedy decision would be appreciated, given the hospital restructuring effort underway.

Hussamy came to Vero in 1994, a year after finishing his residency in orthopedics at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He earned the British equivalent of the M.D. at Churchill College of the University of Cambridge and in the states, earned an M.D. at the University of Virginia.

“I am very sorry to see Dr. Hussamy resign from the position to which he was just elected,” said Cunningham. “He would have brought another perspective to the board, particularly as we pursue the strategic assessment recently undertaken. I hope he will continue to participate and share his insights. I do understand the demands of his practice conflicting with the demands of the District.”

Of the seven District Trustees currently serving, two were originally appointed by Gov. Scott, Ann Marie McCrystal and Allen Jones. Both were subsequently re-elected.

Whoever is appointed now will serve until the next county election, in 2018; if the appointee is re-elected at that time, he or she will serve only a two-year term, not the usual four.

Anyone can apply for the post. “It’s a lot easier than campaigning and getting elected,” said Suriano, who will post the opening on the appointments office website; the application is filled out online.

Once the field of candidates is narrowed and Gov. Scott makes his choice, the appointee will be notified.