An allegation of keeping two sets of books, one for internal records and another for reimbursement.
Hmmm. Sounds like a page ripped from the U.S. Justice Department's fraud investigations of any of several hospital companies, including Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. and Quorum Health Group.
But this time Medicare cost reporting is not the issue, and the Justice Department itself has been called on the carpet.
The department owes some of its own lawyers more than $500 million for unpaid overtime, according to a class-action lawsuit filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. More than 12,000 lawyers who work or have worked for the department are eligible to receive part of any award.
The complaint alleges that Justice kept two sets of records, one used for pay purposes, which artificially reflected a 40-hour work week, and the other used to justify increased budgetary requests and to bill for litigation with private parties. The second set of books allegedly showed the actual hours worked by each lawyer.
A department spokeswoman declined to comment on the evidence cited in the complaint but says, "There is no similarity between the allegations (in the lawsuit) and the allegations about Columbia."
Postnatal marketing. Consumer advocate extraordinaire Ralph Nader wants hospitals to get out of the baby business.
Nader doesn't want hospitals to stop delivering babies, mind you. He just wants them to stop handing parents gobs of freebies that promote everything from diapers to infant formula.
"Gone are the days when the maternity wards were sanctuaries from the world of commerce," Nader wrote in a letter last month to the American Hospital Association. But the AHA isn't going to react based on one letter, says Richard Wade, its senior adviser for communications. "We're going to find out what's really going on in the field," he says.
Musical names. Names are as disposable as tongue depressors these days in the struggling physician practice management industry. Several companies have junked their names recently:
Advanced Health in Tarrytown, N.Y., has become AHT Corp. PhyMatrix is now Innovative Clinical Solutions, based in Providence, R.I. Coastal Healthcare Group in Durham, N.C., switched to PhyAmerica. Memphis-based Omega Health Systems became VisionAmerica. And both American Oncology Resources and Physician Reliance Network were scrapped when the companies merged to create U.S. Oncology.
Some investors and clients are bound to be confused, but at least one company claims its intent is to clarify matters. Twenty-two-year-old Coastal said that to continue using its name, or that of Sterling Healthcare Group, another established firm it recently acquired, "would only create confusion." Go figure.
Wellness at Dollywood. Employees at the Dollywood entertainment park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., are getting more than a song for their efforts.
In addition to providing musical extravaganzas, amusement park rides and magic shows, the entertainment park, named after Grammy Award-winning country superstar Dolly Parton, is providing another service-healthcare for its employees.
Amid waterfall rides, roller coasters and ferris wheels, Dollywood has established the Dollywood Family Healthcare Center, which recently opened for park employees and their dependents.
Dollywood partnered with Meridian Corporate Healthcare, a Nashville-based healthcare management company, to create the on-site health center, which will provide routine family medical care, X-rays, laboratory services, physicals and wellness programs.
A rural hospital thrives. With its white shutters, red bricks and cozy living room of a lobby, Kirby Hospital in Monticello, Ill., looks more like a large house than a medical center. And with only 12 staffed beds, it's not much larger than many homes.
While managed care and declining Medicare payments have been roughest on small rural hospitals, Kirby has survived by aggressively expanding its outpatient services, using technological advancements like telemedicine and rallying support in the community of 4,500 people.
"We've had to be flexible, and we've had to be progressive," says Tom Dixon, Kirby's administrator for the past 34 years.
A $2.3 million renovation funded in part by community donations will allow the facility to expand to 18 beds.
Kirby, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, has seven physicians on staff along with nurses and physician's assistants. In fiscal 1999, 5,404 patients passed through its doors, 2,000 more than in 1995.
Those patients come to the emergency room when they break a leg and to the Convenient Care clinic when their child has a sore throat on the weekend. They come for physical therapy, mammograms, cancer treatment or drug tests for jobs.
The hospital also has a thriving physical therapy center, which serves everyone from children with cerebral palsy to weekend athletes to seniors recovering from strokes.
Physical therapist Don Weitekamp came to Kirby 10 years ago after working at a large hospital in Champaign, Ill., for nearly 22 years. He says some of his patients choose Kirby because of its friendly, less hectic atmosphere.
"Some small-town people like to go to another small-town place," he says. "I think there really is a need for these small rural hospitals."