Last weeks criminal sentencing of two former Rhode Island hospital executives by a federal judge may have closed an embarrassing saga for their former employer, Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence, R.I. But the state legislator who the executives bribed to do the hospitals bidding continues to provide evidence to federal prosecutors and may implicate other elected officials and corporations, possibly including other healthcare organizations, a source close to the investigation told Modern Healthcare.
On Jan. 31, U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres sentenced former Roger Williams President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Urciuoli, 60, to three years in prison and gave Frances Driscoll, 66, a former senior vice president, a term of eight months in prison, followed by eight months of home confinement. Torres also sentenced former Rhode Island State Sen. John Celona, 53, to 30 months in prison.
More indictments may be coming from the U.S. attorney overseeing the case, according to Thomas Connell, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Providence. But he declined to identify the 14 subjects of the inquiry and said he did not know whether Celona had similar consulting relationships with other healthcare organizations, or how prevalent similar practices are in Rhode Island.
That is the focus of our continuing investigation, he said.
One industry source familiar with the investigation, speaking on the condition he not be named, said a healthcare organization of some type may be one of the targets.
But Edward Quinlan, president of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, said the issues that formed the indictment dealt with business relationships forged between a state senator and 146-bed Roger Williams. I have no knowledge of any other inquiries into other hospitals, nor have I any reason to think there should be, Quinlan said.
In October 2006, a Providence federal jury convicted Urciuoli on one count of conspiracy and 35 counts of mail fraud, and found Driscoll guilty of one count of mail fraud (Oct. 16, 2006, p. 6). Urciuoli, who vowed to appeal the verdict, had faced up to eight years in prison. Roger Williams fired him in January 2006.
The hospital itself was also indicted, but the U.S. attorney deferred the prosecution in exchange for its cooperation in the inquiry. Roger Williams agreed to provide $4 million worth of free healthcare and strengthen its ethics and compliance programs to avoid prosecution.
In Urciuolis indictment, prosecutors charged that he directed Celona to use his position to persuade the state Blues plan to settle a $5.6 million reimbursement dispute with Roger Williams, and to pressure insurer UnitedHealthcare to increase its reimbursements to the hospital.
Roger Williams current President and CEO Kenneth Belcher, who was named to the post in January 2006, declined to discuss the sentences. But Belcher said the hospital has moved to restore public trust through the hiring of an ethics officer, new board members and a new governance committee. We are sorry for any problems that occurred and took responsibility, Belcher said. Were moving forward very humbly and using both the belt and the suspenders to keep things in check.
Belcher said, after restating earnings, that the hospital lost $768,000 on revenue of $145 million in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2006, and reported a $100,000 profit for the first quarter of fiscal 2007 ended Dec. 31, predicting it will finish its fiscal year in the black.