Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Fox Guarding the Hen House

This is the final report filed by the Grady Task Force. Let me sum up for anyone that doesn't want to bother to click the link. This is a report that is about thirty pages that is full technical jargon that almost no one can understand.

So, what is the Grady Task Force and why should anyone care? If you have been following my work, you know that Grady Hospital has been in financial turmoil for years and it has now come to a head. Grady Hospital is one of the biggest hospitals, one of the biggest public hospitals, and one of the biggest hospitals for the indigent in the country. It needs a huge infusion of tax payer funds, up to nine digits, or it will close down.

The Grady Task Force is a sort of consulting group, created by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, designed to make recommendations to "fix" Grady Hospital. The very fact that Grady Hospital needs this sort of consulting group is curious in and of itself.

This past spring Grady fired Alvarez and Marsals, a professional consulting firm it hired to recommend ways in which it could avert financial ruin. That was only after paying the firm a cool 300K plus, PER MONTH, and over 3 million dollars total. Consulting firms are nothing new for Grady Hospital. Frankly, Grady Hospital goes through consulting firms the way that Liz Taylor goes through husbands. They pay each of them handsomely and they are even thinking of hiring yet another despite having a "consulting firm" hand picked for them by the Chamber.

One would think that after spending roughly eight digits on consulting firm in about two years, Grady would finally figure out WHAT THE F$%K IS WRONG. That is if these consulting firms are being hired for their advice rather than other reasons. For instance, would it surprise anyone to learn that the principles of Alvarez and Marsals have close ties to Grady board member Michael Hollis? Would it surprise anyone to learn that all of the prior consulting firms were in one way or another hired for some reason other than their professional qualifications? It wouldn't surprise me, and my proof is in these Latin words, res ipsa loquitor. The facts speak for themselves, and the facts are that at least four consulting firms have produced a hospital on the brink of financial ruin. Again, Grady paid about ten million dollars for all of this consulting. If these relationships were on the level, this money would have produced something better than what we have.

Now, we have the Grady Task Force, an unpaid consulting firm. When, we examine the facts, I think that we will see that the Task Force has other financial considerations in Grady Hospital. The bulk of the members are community and business leaders and that gives the force a sort of rep. They are also individuals and entities with financial and professional interest in Grady, which makes me wonder if their advice is on the level.

For instance, there is Robert Brown. He is the former head of the Grady Board. He served on the board during a period in which Grady was convicted of Medicare fraud, State Senator Charles Walker was convicted of 127 felonies, many related to Grady, and an HHS report came out and concluded this,

there is a serious and immediate threat to the health and safety of the patients

Does it sound to anyone as though he has any business being on the board given his history of failure at Grady, and possibly obscene amounts of corruption. Did I mention that Robert Brown is also of RL Brown and Associates, an architecture firm? Would it surprise anyone if his own architecture firm was the recipient of several "sweetheart deals" for additions and upgrades to Grady during his tenure? The list is full of such names: Michael Johns, of Emory University, Michael B. Russell of H.J. Russell (also a recepient of several contracts), John E. Maupin, MD – ex-officio President & CEO Morehouse School of Medicine (another proprietor of Grady Hospital), Phil Humann CEO SunTrust Banks, Inc.(with significant financial ties to Emory University but who doesn't in Atlanta), etc. One would think that if a hospital is near financial ruin the last people that would be in charge of recommendations to fix it would be those who put it there in the first place. Not with Grady, in this case the very same people that were responsible for putting Grady in this position are now in charge of fixing it. That is why I call this piece: The Fox Guarding the Hen House.

Like I said earlier, most of the recommendations are quite technical and difficult for the layman to understand. One has caught my eye and it is a plan to make Grady Hospital run by a private corporation. Under this plan, Grady would still receive public funds so the only practical effect would be more secrecy when it came to public fund usage. Given Grady's history with corruption: State Senator Charles Walker, the Medicare fraud, so called double dipping and atrocious patient care, and all sorts of other unproven cases of malfeasance. Is going private and more secretive really the best way to "save Grady". It probably isn't however if I were looking to commit more corruption at Grady, I would certainly want to make it private.

I would love to hear what possible public benefit Grady going private would have. There appears to be none to me, though there is an obvious one if you wanted to commit more corruption. There is a vote coming soon in the Georgia legislature. My own read is that the folks of Georgia don't want the hospital to go private. There appears to be no public good in it. Thus, I can only see one reason for any politician to vote for that plan and by my estimation that vote disqualifies said politician from serving again.

Oh and finally, you want to add insult to injury. After Grady is done listening to the consulting recommendations of the unpaid Grady Task Force, they plan on hiring another paid consulting firm. Frankly, if the Grady Task Force is on the level one would think there would no longer be need for anymore consulting firm. If, that is, the Grady Task Force is on the level.


While I tried to make this piece as comprehensive as possible, if this is your first exposure to the story behind the crisis at Grady Hospital you may very well be quite confused. Thus, I have put together a summary of the entire fiasco that tries to put all of its moving parts together in one piece. Please read it for guidance. Also, please check out the recommendations that I and my colleagues have put together for fixing Grady Hospital.

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