Broward Health fires its general counsel, names new acting CEO

Broward Health's board fired its general counsel last week and named a new acting CEO. (Broward Health)

Broward Health's top lawyer Lynn Barrett was ousted from the health system last week.

The Sun-Sentinel reported multiple speakers at a board meeting accused Barrett of wasting the system’s money, hurting patient care and creating a “pervasive culture of fear” as general counsel.

In a 4-2 vote, the board opted to fire her with supporters saying they hoped the move will help the five-hospital health system move forward from its troubled history. Barrett told the Sun-Sentinel after the vote she had done nothing wrong and that she was grateful for the chance to serve as top lawyer for the taxpayer-supported system.

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During the meeting, the board named Gino Santorio acting CEO, making him the fifth person to serve as CEO of the public hospital system since January 2016, the South Florida Business Journal reported. CEO Beverly Capasso announced her resignation last month but agreed to stay to help with the transition as a consultant through January 2019. Still, S&P Global Ratings said her surprise departure "reinforces" a negative outlook for the health system, the Sun-Sentinel reported

The moves come as the health system continues to grapple with instability dating back several years when it faced allegations of illegal payment deals resulting in a $70 million settlement, as well as open meetings act violations. An independent review conducted last year raised several problems that were the result of what “can only be described as a cultural civil war” within the system. 

Problems at the system first came to light in 2015 when a whistleblower lawsuit revealed illegal pay deals between the system and physicians, in violation of The Stark Law and anti-kickback laws. The $70 million settlement included a five-year corporate integrity agreement and the establishment of the IRO to review the system’s policies, procedures and operations.

In 2016 Broward Health's board fired former hospital interim CEO's Pauline Grant. Last year, she filed suit alleging, among other things, the hospital district violated state public meetings laws when the board and general counsel discussed firing her prior to the open meeting.

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