The parent of one of the largest hospitals in Kansas City, Mo., has restated the hospital's Medicare cost reports to deduct funds that system officials say were misappropriated by its fired chief executive officer.
Saint Joseph Health Center, owned by Carondelet Health System, hired outside counsel to audit its books after it terminated Richard Michael Abell last year (Oct. 12, 1998, p. 14).
"He was terminated with cause," said Gary Christiansen, CEO of St. Louis-based Carondelet. "There were problems with his expense accounts. We did amend our Medicare cost reports because of the incidents that did occur."
Christiansen declined to specify the dollar figures involved, either in alleged misappropriations or in restated cost reports, except to say that "it was a substantial amount of money." Specifically, Carondelet deleted certain claimed reimbursable Medicare expenses.
Medicare cost report irregularities have become a favorite target of federal law enforcement officials looking for potential Medicare fraud.
The 257-bed hospital is now in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, he said. "It's a private matter. There won't be any information until there is some resolution," he said.
Christiansen said Carondelet had talked with federal and state authorities about the missing money. "We're working with the various authorities to determine the best way to resolve the matter," he said. He said he did not know whether federal or state officials were investigating, but said Carondelet is considering civil action against Abell.
Abell, reached through the offices of Kendallwood Healthcare Services in Kansas City, Mo., said he is working with the local YMCA on fund raising and is no longer employed in healthcare.
"I'm basically retired," he said. "I don't plan on doing much of anything. I had a good career."
Abell said no state or federal authorities have contacted him regarding an investigation of the hospital's finances. He also said he has not been sued by Carondelet. "I'm through. I wish them well. That's all I will ever say. I'm fine with everything," he said. He declined to address the issue of the allegedly misappropriated funds.
Abell, 60, a Kentucky native, was president and CEO of Saint Joseph from 1986 to 1998. He was chairman of the Missouri Hospital Association and president of the Kentucky Hospital Association.