In a closely watched specialty hospital dispute, the Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld two lower court rulings that vacated certificate-of-need approval for a 65-bed for-profit hospital that Wellmont Health Systems, Kingsport, Tenn., wants to build in Johnson City, Tenn., with a group of physician investors. The appeals court agreed with an administrative law judge and a Davidson County Chancery Court judge that a member of the Tennessee Health Facilities Commission should have recused himself from Wellmont's application on a conflict of interest. Mountain States Health Alliance, Johnson City, appealed the CON approval in November 2000. Mountain States operates the only private hospitals in Johnson City, including two acute-care hospitals, a rehabilitation hospital and a specialty hospital. Wellmont said it plans to file a new CON application by March 31.
NQF blesses nursing standards
The National Quality Forum endorsed a set of 15 national-standard measures for weighing the impact of nursing care in hospitals. The endorsement-a consensus of more than 200 organizations representing hospitals, employers, insurers and researchers-establishes an initial framework for correlating nursing with patient outcomes. One measure looks at the percentage of registered nurses to total nursing hours worked, and the percentage of total RN hours to total nursing- care hours.
Ex-hospital IT exec indicted
In a rare case of alleged fraud involving a healthcare information technology executive, a federal grand jury in Birmingham, Ala., indicted the former director of network/technology services for three-hospital Eastern Health System in Birmingham on charges of fraud and tax evasion. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Brunson said Timothy Buckner, 41, allegedly set up a phony computing services business called Network Services and billed Eastern for services that were never provided. Eastern said he was employed there from 1993 to 2002. Brunson said Buckner allegedly defrauded Eastern of more than $300,000 from 1999 to 2002 and failed to pay income tax on the proceeds of the alleged scheme. Buckner faces a preliminary hearing on Feb. 12. Eastern officials said they discovered Buckner's alleged scheme and reported it to the government, but they declined further comment.
Sun sets on sale
Sun Healthcare Group, Irvine, Calif., said it reversed plans to sell its rehabilitation business to competitor Beverly Enterprises for $34 million and would keep the units, SunDance Rehabilitation Corp. and SunDance Rehabilitation Agency. A company news release said officials were unable to reach agreement with Beverly subsidiary's Aegis Therapies on certain aspects of the transaction that were conditions of closing. At deadline, company officials could not be reached for comment. Sun emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2002 with plans to operate as a smaller company focused on skilled nursing, long-term care and assisted living.