After spending nearly half a million dollars on an independent probe of potential improprieties at Bingham Memorial Hospital, the hospital board has received its report and will hire an ethics officer to head off future problems.
No one will be fired or reprimanded, but policies will be refined as the result of the third-party investigation, according to Bingham Memorial public relations officer Paul Kotter.
“It would be an incorrect assumption that an incredibly expensive review like this was the best result,” attorney Walter Bithell of Holland & Hart told media representatives at a press conference held Wednesday afternoon at the hospital. He said their investigation shows the hospital had already corrected many of the mistakes made one or two years ago.
In addition to the review conducted by the Holland & Hart law firm out of Boise, two past incidents at Bingham Memorial remain under investigation by the Idaho Attorney General’s Office. One involves the recording of telephone calls made to a doctor’s office inside BMH in July of 2010 and the other involves activities done by a independent business, Cyberdine, which contracted to provide computer services at BMH in 2010.
Cyberdine, which no longer exists, was formed by Bingham Memorial’s IT director and a doctor on staff to provide contracted computer hardware and software services.
After allegations involving activities at the hospital became the focus of complaints by citizens, the hospital was the subject of several stories in the local media earlier this year. Bingham Memorial’s hospital board hired Holland & Hart to thoroughly investigate all allegations. The firm says it spent about 1,500 man-hours on the project and will bill BMH between $400,000 and $500,000.
A nearly 200-page report that outlines seven major incidents or concerns was compiled by Holland & Hart after they interviewed 90 people from inside and outside Bingham Memorial and poured over more than 500,000 documents, according to Bithell and fellow Holland & Hart attorney, Erik Stidhan.
“The responsibility for these events lies solely with me,” said Bingham Memorial Hospital administrator Louis Kraml. “It’s clear the hospital has to be transparent. We’re cooperating fully with the attorney’s general’s office.”
During the review of activities at the hospital, they said they stumbled on the fact that secret telephone conversation recordings were made involving three different phones — to a receptionist, nurse and doctor — in one physician’s office at Bingham Memorial. No trace of the recordings, which were made in late June and early July of 2010, have been recovered.
The recordings ended abruptly after about two weeks when a hospital employee accidently discovered the tape recording devices in the basement of the hospital and alerted her supervisor. An email was sent to the hospital’s IT director, Jack York, the next day telling him to disable and remove the recorders.
Holland & Hart attorney Bithell said the former hospital IT director admitted to installing the recording system, but York said he couldn’t remember who ordered it to be done. Hospital Administrator Louis Kraml said he had no prior knowledge of the telephone recordings, but he did order it stopped as soon as it was discovered.
“I’m confident that no one’s information was compromised,” Bithell said.
Bithell was also careful not to categorize what happened in the summer of 2010 as wiretapping.
“Wiretapping is a loaded word with all kinds of legal ramifications,” Bithell said. “I would call it recording telephone conversations without the parties knowing it was taking place.”
Surreptitious telephone recordings were never part of the allegations made to media in Southeast Idaho prior to the investigation the hospital board launched with Holland & Hart.
However six of the other main complaints addressed in the Boise law firm’s summary of its independent review were part of the publicized controversy surrounding Bingham Memorial.
• Outdated and expired medication being stored in an employees car. Holland & Hart said policies were ambiguous and that has been corrected.
• Saipan hospital activities being done by hospital administrators Kraml and Dan Cochran. Nothing in their contracts with BMH prohibited the CEO and COO of the hospital from forming an outside consulting business. Any expenses paid by BMH have been reimbursed. Future outside business contracting will require board approval.
• Purchase and sale of computer equipment by Cyberdine. IT director York resigned and hospital-owned equipment installed at another site was recovered.
• Incomplete Medicare Second Payer forms filled out after the fact. Policies have been changed to make sure mistakes weren’t made when original problem occurred in the emergency room. Policy prohibits practice in the future.
• Patient stays were lengthened to gain more revenue. Review of all hospital records show no signs of this practice. A form that tracked patient stays may have created confusion and has been discontinued.
• Conflicts of interest involving leased property belonging to hospital board members. The Holland & Hale review shows board members abstained from voting on any leases where they held an interest and lease rates were below market.