Funding has been halted for a private corporation used by the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison to acquire 12 area clinics and physicians' practices.
A legislative audit released last week found that UW Hospital and Clinics diverted $4.4 million into Health Professionals, a private not-for-profit corporation founded four years ago.
The audit found administrators of the state hospital shielded the expenditures from authorities.
Funding was cut off at the request of UW-Madison Chancellor David Ward, said Wayne McGown, his executive assistant. Wisconsin Attorney General Jim Doyle has been asked to review the matter.
Health Professionals buys physicians' offices to supply patients for the UW Hospital and Clinics and its growing health maintenance organization, U-Care.
The corporation's practices have drawn fire from legislators and the state government's top labor leader.
Martin Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees' Union, said the secret spending exemplified the university's arrogance. Mr. Beil's union represents about half the 2,100 union workers at UW Hospital and Clinics.
Mr. McGown said reluctance to open Health Professionals' books stemmed from concerns about violating contracts that called for confidentiality.
Mr. McGown said Mr. Ward asked that the corporation's activities be suspended until they can be studied. He said there was no indication the corporation had spent money on anything but purchasing physicians' practices and clinics.
Auditors investigated UW Hospital and Clinics after the UW Board of Regents proposed reorganization of its supervision. The board wants to consolidate control of the hospital in a single public entity. The regents and several state agencies now are responsible for the hospital.
UW officials contend streamlined supervision is essential for the hospital to be competitive.