An Alameda (Calif.) County grand jury says Ophelia Long, administrator of Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif., improperly spent money from a special fund, hired friends as consultants and operated a trauma center in violation of codes.
The grand jury's report, issued last month, includes numerous recommendations to correct problems at the county-operated hospital.
Ms. Long was not charged with any criminal violations. In California, county grand juries routinely review the conduct of county and city governments and special taxing districts. Their recommendations, which are nonbinding, require a response within 90 days.
The report found that Ms. Long used more than $30,000 from the B.W. Black Fund for a gala ball celebrating Highland's merger with another hospital. "The fund was originally intended...for patient benefits and employee services," the report said.
Ms. Long made a notation in hospital records indicating that the money was used for a "nursing education fund," the report said.
The grand jury recommended that Ms. Long and hospital trustees pay back $49,000 of improper expenditures from the Black Fund.
Ms. Long also hired former Southern California associates as consultants, without bids or evaluations, the grand jury contended. One consultant, who was at the hospital two days a week, was paid $60,000 a year. The jury found "numerous contracts with individuals from Southern California." One of the contracts was worth $100,000 along with $12,000 for travel expenses, the report said.
The report also charged that Highland's trauma center is operating in violation of county and state codes by not having 24-hour anesthesiology services available.
Hospital executives, including Ms. Long, will not comment on the specifics of the report while the hospital works with Dave Kears, director of the city's Health Care Services Agency, to prepare a response to the grand jury's recommendations, a hospital spokeswoman said.
But the grand jury received incorrect information about the trauma center, which does in fact include 24-hour anesthesiology services, the spokeswoman said. And the hospital already has put many of the grand jury's recommendations about the Black Fund into effect, the spokeswoman said.
In fact, "months ago" the hospital requested "guidance" from the county auditor-controller "for better accountability" of the fund, she said.
Mr. Kears, who appeared before the grand jury, "pointed out that overall he felt that the hospital had improved under (Ms. Long's) leadership," the report said.
County grand juries have reviewed Highland Hospital before. "It has a history of problems, both fiscal and otherwise, but this is probably one of the more in-depth reports," said Stacy Walthall, legal adviser to the grand jury in the district attorney's office.