Tuesday, March 20, 2007

County hospital contracts scrutinized

March 20, 2007
Cook County officials are investigating whether hospital contracts were doled out to firms using unqualified workers or, in some cases, firms not doing the work at all.
Board President Todd Stroger was vague in announcing findings Monday by hospital chief Dr. Robert Simon, but a spokesman said there are "specific instances" of concern involving "mismanagement and impropriety."
Stroger's announcement mentioned "a number of contracts" involving "managerial services." The announcement also noted that Simon has ousted "several" hospital leaders involved with billing, which has been a major source of budget shortfalls in the hospital system.
The findings have been forwarded to both the state's attorney and inspector general.
Billing and collections at the hospital have long been a concern of commissioners. They have repeatedly asked about the number of companies doing the work and how much each is collecting -- and have been getting few answers.
Janitorial deal approved. Also Monday, the county board voted 9-8 on Stroger's request to approve a no-bid contract with a cleaning company that has ties to Stroger's political organization and to Cicero-based mob figures.
We Clean Maintenance & Supply got the $357,000 contract to clean the county building for the next 135 days, replacing county janitors laid off because of budget cuts.
Company officials, citing the "security of our clients," declined to comment.
By August, county officials expect to award a competitively bid cleaning contract.
We Clean is headed by Julie Leopold, mother of Anthony Leopold, who testified in the criminal trial of ex-Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese that the firm was loaned money by Michael Spano Jr., son of town mob boss Michael Spano Sr. Leopold paid some of the money back to Spano, but also to another man convicted in the case, John LaGiglio.
The $179,000, it was revealed, was illegally pilfered from town funds and led to Loren-Maltese's conviction.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

More than $130 million in unpaid Cook County hospital bills have been found stuffed into boxes -- and officials said 40 or 50 more boxes could be stashed somewhere else.
While finances and bookkeeping were long known to be a problem in the hospital system, County Board members learned Tuesday just how big the problem had become during the tenure of ex-Board President John Stroger.

The 77 boxes recently discovered were each stuffed with about 2,500 billing forms.

And hospital chief Dr. Robert Simon said there could be another 40 or 50 similar boxes hidden elsewhere.

Bills too old to collect
That's millions more in free services people received, with the county never once attempting to collect payment from the patient or Medicaid.
"We've never hidden the fact that finances have been mismanaged," he said. "We inherited this. We just needed time and money to fix it."

Hospital chief operating officer Tom Glaser said that because many of the bills are so old, the county likely won't be able to collect on most of them.

He expects the county to recover only about $30 million.

Those responsible for county billing have been ousted, Simon said, and more changes are coming.

They must, he said, because state and federal leaders are hesitant to deliver any more money for county health services until the finances are improved. To that end, County Board President Todd Stroger said he's following a recommendation from Sen. Dick Durbin to establish a panel of outside experts to regularly review hospital operations and ensure improvements are made.

That includes shipping those boxes of bills to a company that is now scanning in each one -- at 10,000 a day --to see which ones the county could expect to get paid for.

Nurses call in sick
Although the county had planned to rely on various private contractors to assist with future bill collections, Glaser said the county is now considering working with the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council and its resources in those collection efforts.
Also Tuesday, Simon reported a string of absences by nurses at Stroger and Provident hospitals, which he suspects was instigated by the nurses' union, upset about job losses because of budget cuts.

While a weekend normally sees about six people call in sick, 30 Provident nurses called in sick last weekend and even more at Stroger, he said.

That led to reduced services, longer waits and overtime for nurses working.

National Nurses Organizing Committee officials, who protested at Tuesday's board meeting, did not return calls.