Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. trotted out its top executives last week in Nashville for what was billed as a briefing on recent changes and new strategies at the nation's largest hospital chain, which is restructuring in the face of a massive federal fraud investigation.
But as Columbia's Chief Operating Officer Jack Bovender Jr. said at the meeting, "For those expecting to see the full Monty, sadly you'll be disappointed."
Bovender was joined by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Frist Jr., M.D., Senior Vice President Victor Campbell and ethics czar Alan Yuspeh for a review of what the company has done since the nationwide federal raids on Columbia facilities last July. They spoke at a conference sponsored by the Nashville Health Care Council but admitted they weren't saying anything new.
Reiterating what he told MODERN HEALTHCARE last fall, Frist said Columbia would finish its internal audit of its billing practices in February and that it would be ready to talk to federal officials about the findings in March or April.
"I'm happy about what I'm seeing so far," Frist said about the preliminary, unreleased audit findings.
Meanwhile, Frist announced that the company hired former Tennessee Court Justice Lyle Reid to be the new vice president of litigation. He replaces David Bradford, who resigned last fall. Reid, 67, will be responsible for supervising corporate litigation staff, advising the company on litigation and liability issues and overseeing governmental investigations.
At the meeting, Bovender gave a candid review of the company's decision to spin off 109 hospitals and keep 227 as part of its reorganization plan announced in November. Columbia has significant assets and market share mostly in facilities in its East and West divisions. Some facilities are stand-alones in certain markets but are of significant value, Bovender said.
The spinoff groups -- dubbed the America, Atlantic and Pacific groups -- include hospitals that had the poorest performing margins, Bovender said. But "we're absolutely convinced these hospitals will improve by operating independently,"he said.
It will take at least a year before Columbia gets Internal Revenue Service approval for the spinoffs, Frist said.