Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark, the fiery California Democrat and longtime critic of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., nailed it.
"They got too greedy. They got too smart. They crossed the line," Stark said of the $20 billion hospital company besieged by legal and management woes.
There's a lot of behind-the-scenes smirking and chest thumping going on in healthcare circles following the unceremonious ousting of Richard Scott, founder/chairman/CEO of Columbia, and David Vandewater, his trusty sidekick/president/COO. Many competitors, suppliers, reporters, politicians and community activists long have blasted the company for its aggressive, heavy-handed business practices. The charges by now are familiar:
The company puts profits before patients.
Scott is in healthcare just to make money.
Management tramples on anybody in their way.
MODERN HEALTHCARE has and will dutifully report the sad saga of Columbia, as well as attempts of Thomas F. Frist Jr., M.D., to polish the company's tarnished image. It will take years and cost billions of dollars to repair the damage fully.
But in the contrarian spirit, it's time to give the devil his due. Ten years ago, Scott saw opportunity in operating hospitals when most saw only ruin. His vision of efficiency and cost saving was borrowed by competitors. He believed in the hospital-based model of integrated healthcare delivery. He pushed for greater consolidation in a bloated industry overwrought with protectionism.
But in the end he fell victim to lack of experience running a big company. Learning the art of patience, diplomacy, media/community relations and controlled aggression doesn't come easy. Scott's lawyer-entrepreneur-visionary mind-set led to his downfall. Under his leadership, Columbia did become too smart and too greedy.