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The Miami Herald Talk of Our Town Column: Doc Slams Mt. Sinai for Spending Priorities

June 24, 2007

By Joan Fleischman, The Miami Herald

Jun. 24–Dr. Enrique Davila, former director of Mount Sinai Medical Center’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, blasts the Miami Beach hospital and its fundraising foundation in a five-page letter. He claims Mount Sinai cares more about executives’ compensation than patients.

Mount Sinai CEO Steven Sonenreich calls Davila a “superb physician,” but says the letter is filled with “exaggerations and misrepresentations.” Sinai provides top-notch care, he says.

Davila, 58, had an office at Sinai until last year, when his employer, Aptium Oncology, a California corporation that manages Sinai’s cancer center, fired him. A business dispute that had “nothing to do with his medical skills,” says Davila’s lawyer, Robert Frankel.

Davila was “hurt and angry,” Sonenreich says. “We’ve become the target of his unhappiness.”

Davila sent the letter to foundation executive director Michael Milberg — and copied the foundation board, and Sinai’s executive board and medical executive committee.

Davila says Milberg wrote to him in November, asking Davila to fulfill his “charitable pledge” of $3,828.12. Davila says he has contributed thousands, and grateful patients have donated big bucks earmarked for his cancer program. He withheld his small balance, concerned that the foundation misused donations and kept “incomplete, confusing” records.

“The hospital has incurred large annual deficits . . . which have been partially or wholly subsidized by the foundation,” Davila writes. “The intent . . . of the Founders [Club] was not to support the operations of the hospital but for the improvement of the facility, equipment, research, education and for recruitment of first class professionals.”

Sonenreich says the not-for-profit hospital had a $2.2 million surplus in ’06, $6.9 million in ’05. Last deficit was in ’03 — $10 million, he says. Funds are used ‘in accordance with the donors’ requests,” and fund transfers are “approved by the board and audited by our internal and external auditors.”

Sonenreich made $1.227 million in ’04, more than the CEOs of Baptist Health, Mercy Hospital and Jackson Memorial, Davila says. Chief nursing officer Karen Moyer’s salary, which he says was $503,279 in ’03, “exceeds the salary of each and every one of the physicians employed by Mount Sinai.” Sonenreich says a board of trustees compensation committee determines exec salaries, with input from an outside consultant. “To be competitive and to attract high-quality individuals.”

Some of Sinai’s best doctors have left, nursing is “the worst I . . . have ever seen,” and Sinai lacks ‘equipment . . . available in ‘third world’ Latin American hospitals,” Davila writes.

Sonenreich says Sinai spends $25 million a year on state-of-the-art medical equipment, and he insists doctors aren’t bailing. A physicians office building set to open this fall is “95 percent leased.”

Davila’s letter aims “to be disruptive” and “embarrass,” the CEO contends. Adds Gary Gerson, a CPA who is Sinai board chair emeritus: “Vindictive allegations from a disgruntled, terminated physician. A pity to have that take away from all the indigent free care and philanthropy.”

Davila still sees patients at Sinai, but works out of a Broward office. On Friday, he hand-delivered a $3,828.12 check to Milberg. Says the doc: “I hope the foundation acts to correct the problems.”

OVER AND OUT

Developer Raul Masvidal, charged in a public corruption case, got divorced Thursday. Wife Mercedes, who sought the split, came to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Joel Brown’s court with a settlement agreement. Masvidal wasn’t there. “An amicable resolution,” her attorney Andrew Leinoff says.

Things didn’t appear amicable last year, when police arrested her for ramming her Range Rover into Raul’s Mercedes-Benz SL55. Cops said she hit it “purposely because she caught him cheating.” The state dropped the matter after she went into a deferred prosecution program.

Raul, 65, is accused of theft and fraud for allegedly using county money to buy himself a $150,000 sculpture of a watermelon slice. He pleaded not guilty.

Mercedes, 56, gets the Old Cutler home — plus $60,000 a year in alimony for five years.

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