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The Globe and Mail

Danny Williams resting in Florida after longer-than-expected heart surgery

With his heart on the mend, Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams has at last put his feet up to recover from surgery at his Florida condominium.

The procedure, performed at a Florida hospital, was more complicated and lengthy than expected, his spokeswoman, Elizabeth Matthews, said last night.

The minimally invasive surgery was supposed to take 2 1/2 hours, but stretched out to six because the Premier's heart was more damaged than doctors expected, she said.

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She declined Globe and Mail requests to speak with the Premier at his condo, but at least a few residents of the multimillion-dollar seaside complex had heard of his arrival.

According to Sarasota County deed records, Mr. Williams bought a condo at Summer Cove on Siesta Key last June for $1,480,000, with a $10,360 tax transfer.

The building, which offers "sophisticated, modern, island living" on the Florida key, overlooks a brilliant cerulean ocean scene and vast reaches of sandy beach. The community website boasts 2,100- to 3,700-square-foot spaces and numerous private elevator banks. Expansive windows and terraces look out on to Sarasota Bay and "lushly landscaped grounds." Residents also have boat and kayak launches at their doorstep.

Resident Jim Schlesing said he heard from people in the condo sales office last week that the Premier had arrived or was going to come by. But he was perplexed at the debate that had Canadians and even Fox News buzzing when news broke that the Premier would have his surgery in the United States, which ignited a firestorm of talk about public versus private care.

"What's the big fascination?" he asked.

"We don't want government health care in the United States and we were very vocal about it."

A handful of Canadians live in the buildings, but say they don't know or wouldn't even be able to recognize the 60-year-old Premier, who had to stand up for his province's health-care system after a series of botched breast cancer tests were subject to investigation last year.

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Newfoundland residents appear to be standing by Mr. Williams's decision to head to the United States for heart surgery.

Mr. Williams was released from hospital on Feb. 11, his spokeswoman said. He is expected to get back to work in early March.

With a report from Celia Donnelly

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