President and CEO of Lee Health on future of healthcare system

Reporter: Emma Heaton Writer: Emma Heaton
Published: Updated:

A decisive vote has set the stage for a major shift in Southwest Florida’s healthcare landscape.

Thursday, the Lee Health board voted 9 to 1 majority in favor of transitioning Lee Health, the largest not-for-profit public health system in the state, to a private entity.

The move has sparked both support and dissent within the community.

Proponents argue the transition will secure Lee Health’s future, but critics are not on board.

WINK News took concerns to the president of the healthcare system, Dr. Larry Antonucci.

“We want to be able to compete with other health systems that are going to be coming to our community that can act regionally,” said Antonucci.

He said going from public non-profit to private will give the healthcare system freedom.

With the change comes concern.

In this case, people are wondering why the decision did not go to voters?

“When the the Special Act was created, and Lee health was created, the authority was placed with the elected board of directors,” said Antonucci.

WINK News asked Antonucci what he would say to people in the community concerned over their lack of say.

“I think when people will review the mission agreement, we’re going to agree to with the county, I think they’ll feel reassured that we are going to commit to continuing to provide the same levels of care that we’ve provided all along, the same safety net mission,” Antonucci responded.

Lee Health calls itself the safety net for the community.

If the switch is made, will the healthcare system maintain that mission?

“We’ve been a safety net provider in this community for over 100 years, and we want to continue doing that,” said Antonucci.

He also noted that if the healthcare system goes private, there will be an oversight group and there will be just as much transparency.

The next steps are in the hands of Lee County commissioners who will either support or deny the conversion.

A formal vote is expected in mid-October.

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