Seller beware: A one-man Harley-Davidson theft ring appears to be targeting unsuspecting hospitals as the scene of his crimes. Masquerading as a doctor clad in scrubs and lab coat, the thief lures sellers to a hospital parking lot to show off their "hogs" on the pretense that he is too busy to come to them. The seller trustingly hands over the keys; the bandit hops on the motorcycle for a test drive and that is the last anyone sees of the bad doctor-until the next time he strikes.
That scenario occurred on at least two occasions seven days and 350 miles apart. A man reportedly calling himself the "motorcycle doctor" responded to an ad placed by a Doylestown, Ohio, couple selling a 1999 FXD Superglide Harley-Davidson. Claiming he would be working a weekend double shift in the emergency room at 473-bed Akron (Ohio) General Medical Center, he asked the couple to bring the bike to him at the ER parking lot on July 1. Shortly thereafter, vrrroooom, he was gone.
One week later the same "doctor," police believe, conned a man selling his 1992 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic in Spring Garden Township, Pa. This time the bandit asked the seller to bring the motorcycle to 119-bed Memorial Hospital in York, Pa. In both cases, the alleged physician put in an appearance before the sellers got a chance to have him paged.
Credit Roger Baumgarten, spokesman for the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, for piecing together this still-unsolved mystery. After Memorial notified the association about the theft, Baumgarten says he "blasted an e-mail" to member hospitals as well as hospital associations across the country. The Ohio hospital association quickly responded with an article reporting the earlier incident. In both cases, the suspect was described as being in his 30s with a dark complexion, dark hair and a mustache, says Baumgarten, who also alerted Harley-Davidson.
"We have no clue where this guy's headed next," Baumgarten says.
Wrong place, sort of. Protesters picketed the Santa Ana, Calif., office of HHS' inspector general July 12. Only they weren't representing doctors, hospitals or other angry healthcare providers. They were opposed to federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. The HHS office, if anything, encounters protests against aggressive federal enforcement of healthcare laws or offers guidance on those laws. The demonstrators from Survivors, a national anti-abortion youth organization, conceded the office was not the HHS branch that would enforce policy on stem cell research, said Survivors' Director Dan McCullough. But, he said, citizens could still lodge complaints at that office. The peaceful protesters left after about two hours without being sanctioned, paying any civil monetary penalties or worse yet, being excluded from Medicare or Medicaid.
Medical mystery. President Bush gave a nine-minute speech touting his new Medicare reform principles at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on July 13-the same day U.S. News & World Report ranked Johns Hopkins first among the nation's hospitals for the 11th straight year-and referred to the hospital as "John Hopkins." Hopkins spokesman Gary Stephenson forgave Bush for the gaffe, saying it isn't uncommon for people to drop the "s" in the hospital's first name.
A few days after it was named best hospital, Johns Hopkins accepted full responsibility for the death of a woman who volunteered for one of its clinical trials.
Ellen Roche, a previously healthy 24-year-old woman, died from lung failure on June 2, nearly a month after she inhaled an experimental compound while participating in an asthma study conducted by the university.
"Regardless of the fact that we are unlikely ever to know precisely how or why this happened, Hopkins takes full responsibility for what did happen," said Edward Miller, M.D., dean and chief executive officer of Johns Hopkins Medicine, on June 16. Hopkins released an internal study that said the researcher who conducted the study and the university's research review committee didn't take adequate precautions to protect the research subjects.
Roche was a technician at the university's asthma and allergy center. She volunteered for the study for which she was to be paid $365. Hopkins, in addition to being at the top of the list in the overall ranking, was ranked third in the nation for treating respiratory disorders.