“People realize pretty soon if you’re a person of your word. If you want respect, you have to give respect, and if you do that, it never goes unseen”
he weather was unseasonably cloudy and muggy while I was on assignment to Miami in the late winter of 2013, but my interview with Marcos Lapciuc supplied the missing rays of sunshine, with his positive, can-do attitude in the midst of his organization’s financial distress.
Two years earlier, Lapciuc had joined the board of trustees at Jackson Health Trust, where he hoped to share his financial smarts and business skills with America’s third-largest public hospital, which was dispensing some $500 million a year in charity care.
Little did he know the mess he was stepping into. The board soon promoted Lapciuc to treasurer. Taking a deep dive into Jackson’s finances, he discovered they were bleeding $400 million in red ink and on the verge of bankruptcy. Lapciuc, a savvy and determined Colombian-born Orthodox Jew with business interests in textiles, real estate, and consumer electronics, assumed the hospital’s chairmanship. He developed and implemented a bailout plan that quickly turned the huge debt into a surplus, winning widespread public acclaim and performing a major kiddush Hashem in the process.
Our interview (“Critical Care,” Issue #452) took place just as this financial turnaround was complete and Lapciuc was ready to pass the mantle to his successor and pursue his next career challenge.
The turnaround Lapciuc engineered restored public confidence in Jackson Hospital. It’s not every day that voters approve a referendum to pay higher taxes, but in November 2013, Miami-Dade County voters approved a $830 million bond issuance as part of a ten-year, $1.4 billion renovation and expansion plan at Jackson.
Now at the halfway mark, Jackson, which pioneered Miami-Dade’s first trauma center and is home to the state’s busiest organ transplant institute, has posted a surplus for six straight years and is putting its new sources of funding to wise use. It is constructing a brand-new facility in Miami’s Doral neighborhood called Jackson West, has built several new urgent care centers throughout Miami-Dade, and is adding a massive new rehabilitation center at its main campus in downtown Miami, in addition to many new long-needed upgrades.
Does Lapciuc miss being the chairman, having stepped aside at the early stages of a project he was so closely identified with?
“When I left, I definitely felt a bit of a void,” Lapciuc said, although he continued on as a consultant until the end of 2015 to ensure a smooth transition. “I stayed in contact with some of the key people and would still have the CEO come to my house for a scotch and a cigar, but at that point, I had a lot of things going on in my own businesses to apply myself to.”
The Gray Zone
Lapciuc was often in the news during the turnaround at Jackson, and after he left, he created his own radio program that he called The Gray Zone.
“Obviously, I had made a lot of contacts at Jackson, and the show was my vehicle to stay relevant in the public eye,” Lapciuc said.
A harbinger to the popular Fox and Friends, Lapciuc and an eclectic group of three co-hosts hashed out the issues of the day, interviewed local and national politicians such as Florida’s Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and often featured top beat reporters from the Miami Herald. Another reporter who appeared on their program was the news editor of a Jerusalem-based publication called Mishpacha, by the name of Binyamin Rose, on a follow-up visit to Miami a couple of years later. I faced some tough questioning about the steps the Israeli government was taking to quell Muslim rioters on the Temple Mount, but held my own.
(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 766)