A county grand jury is calling for the firing of the administrator of Comanche County Memorial Hospital in Lawton, Okla., and the ouster of some hospital and healthcare network board members.
The panel investigated the hospital and the controversial rural healthcare network after angry Lawton residents circulated a petition accusing hospital trustees and administrators of being evasive and engaging in questionable business practices.
The grand jury returned 12 sealed indictments last week, called for the firing of the hospital administrator and filed ouster actions against six of 10 people who serve as board members for the hospital or First Health West, the hospital's rural healthcare network.
Randy Curry is the hospital administrator. The names of the board members the grand jury recommends for ouster will be released later.
The grand jury's report criticizes the motives of hospital officials in establishing First Health West.
"It appears the primary goal for establishing a managed healthcare program is motivated more by monopolizing healthcare in southwestern Oklahoma rather than providing quality healthcare to residents of Comanche County," the report said.
Even though First Health West has received national recognition for delivering managed care to rural areas, many people have been critical of it. One Elk City doctor filed a lawsuit earlier this year alleging monopolized healthcare and "predatory pricing."
Attorney Mack Martin, representing Curry and other hospital officials, called the grand jury report a "witch hunt."
Grand jurors said their investigation "revealed apparent fraudulent activities" by the hospital's administration and board members. They recommended that the district attorney investigate, among other items, the purchase of a doctor's private home in Edmond for $200,000 and its resale for $150,000. Comanche County Memorial Hospital carries the mortgage.
The jury also cited the purchase of Great Plains Medical Clinic for $1.5 million when it was appraised at $1 million and the purchase of common areas-hallways, lobbies and restrooms-of the Tomlinson Medical Center for more than $477,000.
The grand jury recommended the hospital administration be prohibited from threatening the practices of independent physicians and that Robert Jones, M.D., the group's medical adviser, be removed from the First Health West board because he receives $3,000 a month in salary from the hospital and $1,000 a month from First Health West Trust.
The panel also asked that the district attorney request an investigation by the attorney general into the legality of forming First Health West and Comanche County Healthcare Corp.
County Commissioner Gary Jones said he was pleased with the grand jury's work. He has been a vocal opponent of hospital practices and said the hospital board and the administration chose to ignore problems.
Jones said it's important to "heed these recommendations, take action and move on to the future. It's quite obvious that these problems have been brought to (light)."