It seems that Richard Scrushy and his legal team are willing to contest every issue, even one about paperwork over a request to have him resign from the HealthSouth Corp. board of directors.
Despite being indicted in November for allegedly directing a massive accounting fraud at the rehabilitation company he founded and led until being fired last year, Scrushy remains a director of the company. Without his voluntary resignation, he can only be removed as a director by a shareholder vote.
HealthSouth contends Scrushy was asked to step down in a March 30 letter, but Scrushy's lawyers contend no such letter was received and that in fact they were unaware of the request until Outliers notified them of it.
"As we have stated before on this site, that statement (by HealthSouth about the resignation letter) is incorrect," wrote Scrushy's legal team on Scrushy's personal Web site, richardmscrushy.com. "In truth, HealthSouth has never made such a request."
But several company news releases issued by HealthSouth since massive fraud allegations broke in March 2003 state plainly that Scrushy "has refused the board of directors' request that he resign as a director."
Outliers brought the phrasing to the attention of Scrushy's defense team via a Dec. 16 e-mail to the ex-CEO's Web site. In response, Donald Watkins, self-described as Scrushy's "lead attorney," wrote in reply: "Though HealthSouth's press release made the comment that the board of directors has asked Mr. Scrushy to `step down,' in truth, no such request has been communicated to Mr. Scrushy. In fact, until your e-mail, we were unaware that HealthSouth had made any such comment in writing."
In any case, the matter appears to be moot. Watkins tells Outliers, "If HealthSouth's board of directors did make such a request, Mr. Scrushy will not step down. Mr. Scrushy is an innocent man."
Meanwhile, Jason Hervey, the former actor turned $300,000-a-year Scrushy spokesman, is not a happy camper. Hervey, perhaps best known for playing the older brother on television's "The Wonder Years," is suing HealthSouth over $400,000 in pay and stock options he says the company owes him after his position was eliminated in March 2003, just days after Scrushy's removal as chairman and CEO.
Given the choice of taking a lump-sum payment of what HealthSouth owed him under contract or biweekly payments of roughly $11,500 in addition to maintaining his insurance and company benefits, Hervey opted for the latter. The lawsuit alleges HealthSouth stopped paying him in November without explanation.
Doctors turned nurses
As everyone knows, hospitals are having to look ever-further afield for nurses, and highly skilled registered nurses are particularly scarce. That's good news for Marceliano Marcias and his colleagues.
Marcias, 49, is one of 32 people in the first graduating class of an elite nursing school at Florida International University in Miami. All are foreign-trained doctors who were forced to leave medicine and their homelands behind to come to the U.S. For Marcias, a Colombia native, being a nurse is a lot better than the odd jobs he had taken to support his five children since he came to this country four years ago, including cleaning floors behind a supermarket meat counter and delivering pizza.
"The knowledge was there, just waiting to be used in a more appropriate way," Marcias told the Associated Press. He plans to work at Miami's Mercy Hospital.
Divina Grossman, director of the university's nursing school, says Marcias' experience is common. She says foreign-educated physicians are often limited by their command of English, or the difficulty of passing the medical board certification. The university's program, which Grossman says is the first of its kind in the nation, is designed to make better use of immigrants' medical knowledge in the midst of an acute nursing shortage.
The program's first class was funded by a number of hospital companies, including HCA, which together put up $600,000, Grossman says. The partnership stepped up again for the second class of 60 students.
They ought to run for office
Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey and Hackensack (N.J.) University Medical Center have taken their months-long contract brawl public, exchanging jabs as much in the media as at the negotiating table.
The two parties last month ended talks to renew a two-year contract when the 640-bed hospital aired its grievances in full-page newspaper advertisements statewide. Horizon, the state's largest health insurer, quickly countered blow for blow by publicly denouncing the hospital's ads as a "public relations scare campaign."
Hackensack blasted the 2.9 million-member insurer in several local newspapers for offering reimbursement rates that were "below cost and simply unacceptable. When your health insurer does not negotiate fairly and brings about a termination such as the one you are now facing, it is letting you down," the ad read.
Horizon defended its position in its own newspaper ads the following week, arguing that Hackensack had incorrectly implied that members would no longer be covered after Dec. 31, 2003, unless a new contract was signed. Under state law, Hackensack must honor the old contract for 120 days if a new deal is not reached.
"When a hospital that is already expensive demands substantial price hikes, we have a duty to stand up for patients who feel the pressure of rising healthcare costs every day," Horizon's ad read. "We need to remember that 1.2 million New Jersey residents can't afford healthcare coverage, and rising hospital costs are part of the problem."