Administrative charges that seven executives and practitioners at a not-for-profit New York hospital system took improper gifts from five vendors competing for a multimillion-dollar information technology contract are politically motivated and baseless, the hospital's chief executive says.
"We really don't believe that there were any violations of regulations," says Richard Turan, president and CEO of Nassau Health Care Corp., East Meadow, N.Y. "There was no allegation that anyone benefited personally."
Turan also says that either the hospital or the individuals under investigation for ethics violations reimbursed the vendors for the full amount of each expense and calls the probe "profoundly silly" and a "political hatchet job." According to Turan, "There is no substance to this."
However, Turan declines to specify what the political links are to the state investigation.
Turan and six other employees of Nassau Health Care Corp., which operates Nassau University Medical Center, a geriatric center and several outpatient clinics on Long Island, are charged with accepting nearly $17,000 in travel, meals and tickets to sporting events in the process of selecting an IT vendor. The seven individuals could face a total of $300,000 in administrative fines from the New York State Ethics Commission.
Owned by the government of Nassau County, N.Y., until 1999, Nassau Health Care is considered a public benefit corporation under state law and thus is subject to specific ethics regulations. The Ethics Commission has no jurisdiction over the five vendors named in the cases: Cerner Corp., Eclipsys Solutions Corp., Fujifilm Medical Systems USA, Philips Medical Systems and Siemens Medical Solutions USA.
Nassau Health Care last week chose Eclipsys to install and support an electronic medical records system, computerized physician order entry, a clinical data repository and wireless networking. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, though state officials say the five vendors entered bids between $12 million and $24 million.
A few days before the contract was awarded, the Ethics Commission charged Turan, hospital Vice President and CIO Christine Forman, CFO Gary Bie, radiology chairman Paul Moh, M.D., emergency medicine department chair Joan McInerney, M.D., director of information systems Lawrence Honold and registered nurse Judith Eisele with accepting a total of $16,945.24 in gifts from the vendors between Aug. 10, 2001, and July 2, 2002.
According to Turan, "There were no exotic trips. There were no trips to exotic areas. They were working trips."
A spokesperson for Cerner told Modern Physician on Friday that the company paid to fly hospital officials to its headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., for a demonstration of Cerner products. "We were fully reimbursed," Cerner spokesperson Don Trigg says.
Turan says he and the employees under investigation reimbursed the vendors for expenses either through the hospital or out of their own pockets.
Other vendors contacted by Modern Physician either declined comment or did not return calls seeking comment.