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IRMC board is unanimously for Cleveland


Two months ago, a starry-eyed Indian River Medical Center Board of Directors picked out Cleveland Clinic from among eight carefully curated healthcare systems that had put together preliminary proposals to take over the hospital. And that was it; they wanted to stop right there.

No, no, no, their advisor told them. You have to pick some more.

Turns out, they had it right the first time. Though it was wise to go through the process, Cleveland had their hearts.

“It was exactly a year ago that Marybeth (Cunningham) and I talked about the future of IRMC and the right structure going forward,” Board Chairman Wayne Hockmeyer said, as if he were beginning a toast to something momentous, even before the ‘aye’s’ were spoken.

“This has been a very deliberate, thorough, careful, diligent process,” said Hockmeyer, the retired chief of immunology at Walter Reed Medical Center and founder of the biotech firm Medimmune.

Hockmeyer then turned to the senior board member, Dr. Hugh McCrystal, a retired surgeon and 24-year chief of staff at IRMC. He and his wife Ann Marie McCrystal are legends in philanthropic and leadership circles; she serves on the District Board. It was McCrystal who made the motion to choose Cleveland Clinic.

McCrystal summoned a tone of gravitas that for once didn’t end in a joke. “I don’t think we can do any better than the Cleveland Clinic,” he said.

Board member Kathleen Hendrix spoke next; she formerly worked in strategic planning for the intelligence community and for the White House. It was she who nudged in the Orlando Health system as a board finalist pick in December.

Now, though, she was backing the Clinic. “I’ve been a patient four times at Cleveland Clinic and I couldn’t have been in better hands. From the support group to the physicians, to the aides and the people who admitted you.”

“I keep coming back to the fact that there are more than enough dollars from any of the four,” said Michael Hammes, a CPA and retired chairman and president of KeyBank in Indiana. “It seems like the other three all could do a good job, and in terms of community perceptions, in the minds of everyone that sees us, we might get better with the others, but it will take years and years and years. With Cleveland, the expectations change the minute it hits the marketplace and I cannot imagine why we wouldn’t choose them.”

Here, Hockmeyer rejoined the piling on of accolades with a reprise from the morning session’s public comment from Dr. William “Bill” Kelley, former CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center and a former IRMC board member, who gave an impassioned plea to choose Cleveland before the meeting broke up to vote.

“Dr. Kelly said it best: There’s an enormous difference between hospitals like the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic (and the rest of top hospitals.) It’s a great testimonial to our doctors and the quality of this organization that the Cleveland Clinic has chosen to really push to be a partner of ours. I think they emphasize what this board has always said: The patient comes first, and quality has to be second to none.”

“I tried not to be blinded by the brand,” said Keith Morgan, a longtime Vero CPA, who initially supported Adventist ‘by a razor thin margin.’ But when I heard Dr. Kelly’s passion, I arrived at the conclusion that this is where we need to go.”

The vote was unanimous, with all 16 members voting ‘aye.’