Think you're not hearing Richard Scrushy's side of the story in the current HealthSouth Corp. legal tangle? Well, the recently indicted founder of the rehabilitation hospital chain (See related story, p. 6) is using the Internet to reach out and communicate.
Just point your Web browser to richardmscrushy.com, and you'll be greeted by a picture of the ousted CEO, a welcome letter and a biography that begins: "Born in 1952 in Selma, Ala.-a town known as the birthplace of the civil-rights movement-Richard Scrushy is now fighting for his own rights and freedoms in the face of false allegations."
Sections on the site include "News," "Letter from Richard," "Biography," and "Setting things straight" as well as a contact form to send your thoughts of encouragement, and a collection of notes sent in by supporters.
The site was launched late last month to let Scrushy tell his side of the story and to correct "misinformation," according to his attorney, Thomas Sjoblom, who is quoted on the site. "No longer will the public have to be content with a single, one-sided presentation of the facts filtered through and reflecting the personal prejudices of various news reporters. Those stories will be challenged and corrected."
Outliers notes Modern Healthcare isn't among the publications that are brought to task on the Web site for inaccuracies, though it would be in good company: the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, as well as HealthSouth's hometown paper, the Birmingham (Ala.) News are mentioned.
Don't mess with the IRS
Outliers sees abundant opportunities for proverbs and maxims in the announcement by the U.S. attorney in Sacramento that the second consecutive chief executive officer of a California community health center was criminally charged with embezzling from the not-for-profit clinic. Old adages like "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," "third time's the charm" and "thick as alleged thieves" spring to mind.
In late October, U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott charged Osa Marie Healy, 44, with 30 counts of embezzlement for writing more than 100 checks to herself from the Redwood Family Clinic in Vallejo, Calif., from 1999 to 2001. The clinic she ran, which offers healthcare services to the poor and uninsured, receives funding from Medicare and Medicaid, making the defrauding of it a federal crime. The government contends that Healy had the clinic pay for her dental care, $15,000 swimming pool, home mortgage, kitchen appliances, opera tickets and utilities with more than $90,000 in unauthorized checks. In addition, prosecutors alleged she filed false income tax returns for 1999 and 2000 and failed to report her added income from the clinic, now known as La Clinica Vallejo. If convicted on all counts, Healy faces a maximum of 306 years in prison and $7.7 million in penalties.
Even if Healy is convicted, it's unlikely that she'll get hit by anything that severe, considering the plea deal reached by her predecessor for essentially the same alleged crimes. In June, Healy's forerunner in the job, former Redwood CEO, treasurer and board member Lisa Jo Baird, 42, pleaded guilty to a single count of embezzlement from a healthcare benefit program and one count of filing a false tax return.
Though she faced a maximum 13 years in prison and $350,000 in penalties, Baird was sentenced to six months in prison, six months of home confinement and restitution of $187,300. In her 13-page plea agreement, Baird admitted to conduct similar to what Healy is charged with committing. The government charged that Baird schemed to embezzle at least $240,000, booking the embezzled checks as fictitious clinic expenses in the clinic financial records that she alone controlled.
Outliers wonders if government prosecutors are beginning to see a pattern here. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Arguelles says there was some overlap between the two CEOs. "Healy was on the board when Baird was administrator," he says. "They definitely knew each other."
Prescription for fund raising
Discouraged U.S. hospital fund-raisers might look to Manchester, England, where a local brewery has launched a seasonal beer to raise money for a hospital's cancer research.
The brew, named Patersons after Christie Hospital's Paterson Institute for Cancer Research, will sell for about $2.25 per pint, with 33 cents going to the hospital. Described in a hospital news release as "bursting with citrus flavors of challenger hops with delicious undertones of pure honey," it's being sold at 130 local pubs by family-owned Joseph Holts Brewery, which has ties to the hospital dating back to 1914.
Hospital spokeswoman Alicia Custis says the brewery aims to raise at least Ãº15,000, or about $25,140.
William McGinly, president and CEO of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, doesn't expect U.S. hospitals to turn to beer sales to boost fund raising despite a 26% drop in cash donations last year, attributed to the poor economy. "You're dealing with different cultures," McGinly says. "Here, we're much more politically correct and sensitive" to the health effects of alcohol. He adds that such a campaign, if attempted in the U.S., should include information about responsible drinking.
Folks in Manchester appear to suffer fewer sensitivities. A hospital news release announced that the public can "put back a Patersons to help the Christie Hospital." Its Web site, christie.man.ac.uk, features a photo of one of the hospital's cancer researchers raising a pint.
The news release also mentions some rejected tongue-in-cheek names, including Christie Cureall and Radiale Therapy.
But Custis told Outliers the hospital "made it very clear in all our local publicity that we weren't endorsing this product or people drinking alcohol."