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Chairman: Halifax Health Must Stay Public

A bruising $85 million whistle-blower settlement for Halifax Health won’t change its mission to remain a public hospital, its board chairman says.

John Johnson, chairman of the Halifax Health Board of Commissioners, told a supportive crowd that Volusia and Flagler Counties need a community hospital and don’t need to consider a sale or merger with a larger, for-profit or non-profit hospital chain, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

Halifax remains one of the state's few publicly owned hospitals, at a time when mergers and consolidations are more the norm. Over the past several years, non-profits and for-profit hospital companies across the country have been merging, or at the very least entering into joint-operating partnerships that allow them to increase buying power and save costs.

In February, Halifax Health reached a record-setting settlementwith a former hospital administrator and the U.S. Department of Justice, over claims the hospital maintained illegal contracts with doctors and for filing false Medicare claims.

Instead of a sale, open job positions will remain vacant and equipment and other purchases have been delayed to help pay for the settlement, Hospital CEO Jeff Feasel said. The hospital, which faces a second phase in a related trial in July, already has accrued $22 million in legal fees, according to the News-Journal.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.