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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dr. Andy and the Media: Corruption Meets Incompetence Meets Corruption (Updated)

(Updated with the photo following a perceptive comment by a reader)

Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, or Dr. Andy as colleagues called him, has traveled a long and winding road. He has frankly commited an obscene amount of corruption and worse yet, he has done it in all parts of the country. Agwunobi came to Atlanta's South Fulton Hospital as CEO immediately before a JCAHO report that gave the hospital passing but marginal grades. He left that hospital about two years later three months prior to another JCAHO report that failed it, suspended the hospital, and forced a total restructuring. He moved on to Grady Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in the world and the largest in America targeting the poor. A year after he arrived the Department of Health and Human Services issued a report that concluded

Grady presents an immediate and serious threat to the health and safety of the

He was removed as CEO of Grady in the aftermath of the report only to wind up as COO at St. Joseph's, a network of hospitals across the country in California. He only managed to stay at St. Joseph's for just over year before he moved back to Florida to serve on the board of WellCare. He only managed to stay at WellCare for six months before cashing out one million dollars worth of stock options and moving on to become the head of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. His first order of business was investigating his most recent employer. Nine months into his tenure his agency was one of several that raided WellCare and the stock plummeted in aftermath. He was eventually investigated for his dubious maneuvers at WellCare and AHCA, and has recently resigned. He didn't resign without a new gig though, as he has already been offered a position as the COO of Providence Health and Services, another network of hospitals in Seattle.

If you just read the introduction, you are probably wondering just how he could have gotten away with so much corruption in so many places, and why he is still able to continue to get a job despite all of this overwhelming evidence of his own incompetence and corruption. The most obscene part is that it took me about thirty minutes of searching Google, the JCAHO website, and around the rest of the internet to determine and verify all of this information. If I am able to easily pin point so much corruption from one individual, why was he able to get away with it for so long in so many places and furthermore why is he continuing on his path? Whenever there is this much corruption, anywhere, it is with the tacit or even active approval of the media around it. In other words, Agwunobi was able to commit all of this corruption because the media around him refused, for whatever reason, to report on what should have been obvious.

A google search of Agwunobi's departure from South Fulton nets only 83 articles. Many of them come years later, and none of them mention the JCAHO report that was filed in the immediate aftermath of his departure. What that means is this. Even though the findings of JCAHO were a matter of public record and could be located with a quick search of their website (the way I found them) no one in the Atlanta area media bothered to investigate this guy, and ask a very simple question...if he ran a fairly small hospital into the ground why is he offered the top job at a very large hospital? Because no one asked no one knew.

To this day, much of the press relating to his time at Grady Hospital is largely positive. Here is one piece published in the immediate aftermath of his departure.

Agwunobi joined Grady on June 1, 2003. Dr. Andy, as he has become affectionately known, has been on the forefront of change for the health system during a very difficult period faced with financial challenges."We have been fortunate to have had the leadership, energy and skills of this remarkably talented individual at the helm of Grady during this sensitive period in the history of the health system," Brown said. "He will leave a legacy to be remembered and admired."

During his short tenure, Agwunobi negotiated the potential merger of Hughes Spalding Children's Hospital with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, launched a public information and transparency campaign to raise awareness and brand the health system, oversaw a portfolio analysis with KPMG to identify financial strengths and weaknesses in all service areas in Grady, created a plan to grow revenues within the profitable service areas to help fund the mission of Grady Health System, created a plan to eliminate services to the uninsured who live outside DeKalb and Fulton counties, served as a catalyst for philanthropic support, improved pharmacy operations and won much recognition and praise.Grady's new interim chief also has a list of accomplishments and awards that are numerous. They include being the past chairman of the board of the Georgia Hospital Association, past regent of the American College of Healthcare Executives, service on the regional policy board of the American Hospital Association, the board of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the board of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Now, what you aren't going to find in this piece is any reference to the scathing HHS report that ultimately cost him his job. The reason for this is even more sinister. This report got almost no media attention in the Atlanta area when it was released. The people didn't know that Agwunobi was responsible as CEO for conditions that lead to this conclusion

the conditions at Grady Hospital pose a serious and immediate threat to the health and safety of the patients

That's because the people of Atlanta largely didn't know about the report at all. The HHS report received nothing more than a byline at the Atlanta Journal Constitution. In fact, the AJC never asked for or published the actual contents of the report. The AJC mentioned the conclusions in a by line and never bothered to explain any of the specifics of the report. Agwunobi wasn't held responsible for the contents of this report because the media didn't even bother to report on the report in the first place.

Given that Agwunobi had now managed to successively run two hospitals into the ground it might have made sense for someone to ask how it was that he got a promotion. After all, it couldn't possibly have been performance. Why exactly did St. Joseph's hire given his track record? Now, I have seen the contents of the HHS report and Agwunobi is only one of several people to be held responsible for its scathing conclusion. In fact, his responsibility is less than several people that stayed on at Grady. Yet, he was the only one to leave. If I had to speculate, I would say there was a quid pro quo, however I can only speculate because no one bothered to investigate how it all went down.

In fact, the media portrayed Agwunobi's tenure at Grady Hospital as largely positive. Here is an example.

Orange-based St. Joseph Health System, which runs three of the largest hospitals in the county, has hired a 40-year-old pediatrician and healthcare administrator as its new chief operating officer.

Andrew Agwunobi, who goes by "Dr. Andy," replaces Jeffery FIocken, who left St. Joseph in June. Agwunobi comes to St. Joseph from Grady Health System in Atlanta, where he oversaw a turnaround of hospital and clinic operator as chief executive since 2003.

Again, let's keep in mind that this so called turnaround climaxed with this conclusion...

the conditions at Grady Hospital present a serious and immediate threat to the health and safety of the patients.

Neither these conclusions or his contribution to them were ever explored by this article or frankly any of the media in California. Agwunobi was able to arrive at St. Joseph's and run a network of hospitals despite a track record that included running a small hospital into the ground and then a large one. Not only was his record never disected, but frankly, articles like this painted his record as positive.

He moved on the St. Joseph's and stayed largely under the radar there as well. He stayed so under the radar that to this day it is unclear why he stayed for such a short time and what made him leave. Agwunobi moved his family cross country to take a very lucrative position. Why in the world would he leave only about a year later and move his family cross country again. To this day no one knows the answer to that.

His move from St. Joseph's to WellCare and his subsequent departure from there also stayed largely under the radar. In fact, my one and only source for his malfeasance at WellCare is Pharma Fraud. (If anyone else reported on these facts, I can't find them). While I consider the author of Pharma Fraud to be a hero on this story, it is a sad commentary when a blogger is breaking news this big. In fact, while both Pharma Fraud and I were reporting Agwunobi's role in WellCare as well as his sordid history, the Florida media stayed largely silent. Again, a Google search of articles of Dr. Andrew Agwunobi and WellCare largely finds things that Pharma Fraud and I published and anything else has only been published since he re signed. The Florida media stayed nearly silent while this obvious corruption was right in front of them. You won't find any articles from any of their newspapers asking the questions Pharma Fraud and I were asking months ago.

This brings me to the present. Even after all of this has now come to light, the media continues to act with a naked corruption that leaves me scratching my head. Let's take a look at two articles as an example.

Agwunobi's resignation comes as the feds look into WellCare Health Plans. Agwunobi served for six months on the WellCare board and when he went to work for Crist, the Wall Street Journal reported that he cashed in $1 million worth of stock options and netted between $400,000 and $500,000. The CEO of WellCare, Todd Farha, announced his resignation in late January.

Here is the other one.

The current AHCA Secretary, pediatrician Andrew Agwunobi, will become regional CEO of Providence Health and Services, a Catholic hospital system in Washington State. AHCA spokesman Doc Kokol said Agwunobi had been unable to unite his family in Tallahassee and tired of commuting to Atlanta each weekend to see his wife, also a physician, and two young daughters. The entire family will be reunited in the move to Washington state, Kokol said. Crist praised Agwunobi’s work during his 13 months at AHCA. “He’s done a tremendous job opening windows to health care for a lot of people ...," Crist said. "I am very grateful for that.”

In other words, it is concurrently a matter of public record that Agwunobi is not only stepping down to spend more time with his family but also then moving that same family cross country to take another job. Maybe, I am the one that is obtuse, but that just makes no sense.

Given all of the corruption that this man has committed that is a matter of public record, you would also expect the Seattle Post Intelligencer and other Seattle media to ask how and why he got hired at all. Of course, those expectation would be giving those organizations too much credit. As of yet, the Intelligencer hasn't published anything about Agwunobi. This will be the fifth high level job for Agwunobi in five years, and the Intelligencer has no interest in investigating how that happened. He is about to be unleashed on the health care system of Washington, after already leaving a trail corruption in Georgia, California, and Florida, and no one in the media there is bothering to do the five minutes of leg work it would take to expose him before he gets there.

If you want to know why Agwunobi has been able to commit so much malfeasance and stay under the radar, there is your answer.


Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Unbelievable, if this reporting is solid.

Blogosphere more useful than the mainstream media in instances like this.

Thanks for the research Mike Volpe.

mike volpe said...

It is solid and I am glad you made the comment, because all of the evidence is found in previous posts. Thus, let me link those for back up...


I stand by all my facts. I have seen the HHS report, and the conclusions are the first thing you find.

The JCAHO findings can be found by searching the JCAHO website. All dates of his employment are a matter of public record. WellCare has back up through public records as well as research done by Pharm Fraud.

Anonymous said...

This, if true and accurate is very beleivable of the MSN/Drive By Media. They insist on reporting stories for which they have a template and their supposed reporting validates that preconceived template. RIP MSN. I love the blogisphere.

Anonymous said...

Great expose. I think you've overlooked one obvious reason why he's been allowed to skate after these demonstrations of his job skills. Google his image. What race is he? In America today, that alone will account for why he's not been held to the same standard as a white administrator. Who knows if it is true in this case, but it's incomprehensible to explain based on what you've shown here.

Anonymous said...

Just an FYI for you: From 2002 to 2005, John Agwunobi, Andy Anwunobi's brother, was the Florida's Secretary of Health and State Health Officer. Then he was Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2005 to 2007. Now he is a Senior VP at Wal-Mart. Wonder where Dr. Andy will show up next...

Anonymous said...

Dr. Andy has moved again, as of March 2008, he is in Seattle as a hospital CEO:

Also, here's a link to some interesting information about his brother, John:

Anonymous said...

I went to school with Dr Agwunobi and I can vouch for his character from when he was a young man till the present day. Also the idiot who said it's because of race probably like some of the people that he dislikes so much blames his own lack of success and inadequacy on his own race wishing he was from the suddenly privileged black race.(Idiot). As for you. I expect that you, like the guy who made that ridiculous comment aren't very successful, otherwise you might actually have a real job. As for his brother check how many previous Assistant Secretaries of Health have these qualifications. MD, MBA, MPH. (You probably don't know what they stand for) Oops!! maybe you didn't research how lucky he was to be given such easy degrees from Hopkins and Georgetown. I wonder if you could get in. Probably not because you're an idiot and a bitter envious ass who won't focus on his own success. I guess you won't post this will you? COWARD.
Look up the word Narcissist. I wonder why government agencies couldn't figure this out but only the great blog writer of the Provacateur could. Narcissistic pig. Go to the DSMIV and look up Narcissistic Personality Disorder and see if it doesn't describe you. I dare you. Then comment on your blog to see if it's true or not.

mike volpe said...

Did you really think no one would notice that you never answered any of my charges directly?

First of all, if you only knew him in school how do you vouch for his entire life?

Your whole entire post is a diatrobe full of personal attacks on me and my commenters. There is absolutely no substantive rebuttal to any of my charges.

Then, for some reason you read off the resume of Agwonobi's brother John. Who cares? No one is claiming they guy doesn't have an impressive resume.

The only resume I referred to is the one that Dr. Andrew Agwunobi had.

It is the one in which he has had 5 jobs in about six years. Why does someone move from one CEO job to another? Isn't that the sort of job you would hold onto?

He just happened to be at Wellcare when their own scandal was unfolding. He just happened to move to AHCA and then had that same organization investigate his former employer. Did all of this happen or not?

I didn't just happen to learn about this. I learned about it by talking to insiders.

I've done a lot of work in exposing the Grady scandal. That is where the nexus of this story started for me. If the system is corrupt as the system Agwunobi is in clearly is, then it isn't going to expose what he is doing.

The truth is that the medical system is totally corrupt. That's why this happens.

None of that matters to you because you tried to immediately make this about me. It isn't about me. It's about Agwunobi.

Anonymous said...

Whoever wrote this (Mike Volpe?)knows absolutely nothing about hospital operations, health care delivery, Dr. Andy, or what it takes to run a hospital. You obviously are on a crusade to prove some point and have manufactured a case against this top-notch health care leader. I have been a hospital management consultant for 15 years and worked side by side with Dr. Andy and many other hospital CEOs. Dr Andy is one of the best hospital CEOs I have ever worked with.

mike volpe said...

I am so impressed with the courage of anonymous posters that spend their entire time bashing me. It appears that your defense of Agwunobi is that you have worked with and you think he is great.

Of course, you never do explain why this fine servant of medicine has had more than one job per year since 2001. Once you reach CEO status you usually stick around, and yet he didn't at South Fulton, Grady, or St. Joseph's. I assume there is perfectly logical explanation for why he moved his family from Georgia to California and only stayed a year in California and then moved his family to Florida, where he stayed about a year as well only to move his family to Seattle. I am sure that is the sort of thing every fine servant of medicine does.

You don't dispute the findings of HHS which found that the hospital this fine servant of medicine ran was

"an immediate threat to the health and safety of the patients".

You don't dispute that he stuck around at the corrupt Wellcare for six months and cashed in one million bucks worth of options and then turned around and lead a group of government agencies in investigating the same Wellcare.

In fact, you don't dispute anything I say. All you do is bless Agwunobi with some fine but vague praise with no specifics and then throw insults at me.

The entire post is very revealing.

Anonymous said...

Andrew Agwunobi's brother, John Agwunobi, left HHS to be a Wal-Mart executive after this 2007 pandemic flu blog fiasco. Note scathing comments:

Anonymous said...

I will be surprised if this blogger completed high school. This is the scariest problem with the internet. Anyone can write about any subject with 30 minute research (yes the best google research) and claim to be an expert. Yes, I guess the internet is making many high school dropouts experts. A fool is born every minute so why not, you can find your look alike to fool no?

You have no case to make about the character you hope to attack. Your cause and effect relationship is at best laughable. Lets try, because Andrew Agwunobi moved so many times, he must be a criminal. You don’t even know the simple fact that it takes a lot longer than Andrew’s stay in these hospitals to cause any serious damage. And did you know that a board position is not quiet a job? Do you know what it even means to serve on a board? who controls the board of most public companies? how long it takes to learn really learn details about the companies you are on the board of? I wonder, how many board meetings Andrew attended before Wellcare’s problems were exposed, (actually you may be proving that he may be the smarter to identify problems so fast) especially if he was only a member for 6 mths – why don’t you google research that and also research who feeds the board its information and what power one board member has in such troubled company?

What other fact can you point to beside JCAHO to prove bad job? And if a hospital has a warning from JACHO what it takes to clear it and/or fail the accreditation? I suspect in your narrow world, no one should have the nerve to resign from a CEO post right? Oh my, how can they get another one? No such luck that comes once in a lifetime right? why don’t you just think that some people are really good and that they are sought after, like to solve challenging problems, and do get multiple CEO jobs? I’m sure you don’t know anyone like that so, of course you can’t imagine, otherwise, you would not be blogging about pure nonsense.

Also, please run fast, Andrew is black, that is the only reason he gets hired right, the same reason that obama is president may be who knows…you have such a small brain that it hurts.

mike volpe said...

Wow, I do love comments like yours, especially months after I wrote the piece.

Let's see a CEO finds and leaves about five jobs in five years. Every hospital he winds up at is much worse right as he leaves. Yet, none of it is his fault.

It wasn't only JCAHO. He got forced out by the State of Florida after his corruption at Wellcare. At Grady, it was a reported by HHS that forced him out. The evidence against Agwunobi's incompetence is overwhelming.

Yet, not only do you dismiss it, but then you lob personal attacks at me. All of it is quite revealing.

mike volpe said...

Wow, I do love comments like yours, especially months after I wrote the piece.

Let's see a CEO finds and leaves about five jobs in five years. Every hospital he winds up at is much worse right as he leaves. Yet, none of it is his fault.

It wasn't only JCAHO. He got forced out by the State of Florida after his corruption at Wellcare. At Grady, it was a reported by HHS that forced him out. The evidence against Agwunobi's incompetence is overwhelming.

Yet, not only do you dismiss it, but then you lob personal attacks at me. All of it is quite revealing.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is, he just took over as CEO for a 500 bed facility here in Spokane WA last week. This week, layoffs were announced.

From my perspective in health care his employment record is fairly suspect. Looks like an opportunistic hatchetman.

Anonymous said...

And I will also add that a very fine, effective top administrator left very suddenly from the facility in Spokane after Dr. Andy took the reins -- without much of an explanation. He is too young and too vibrant to want early retirement. That excuse was never plausible. Yes, I am beginning to believe we, here in Spokane, are in trouble. Yikes!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to have found this forum. I'm currently work for a hospital under agwunobi's rule (Providence Mount Carmel, Colville, WA) and even though we are making money, everything is going downhill fast. Managers are being forced to take a pay cut and mandatory furloughs as well as take on added duties. I've never worked under such horrible leadership. I feel compelled to sound the alarm. Please, this guy doesn't know what he's doing and is running some great hospitals into the ground. I'm suffering, but it's really the patients that are getting the short end of the stick. Providence talks the talk about the mission, bla bla, but treats its middle managers like dirt. Do I have an axe to grind? Yes I do, but I'm not the only one. We were doing great before he came. We had wonderful leadership and good morale. Now, its all in the toilet and we are all afraid for our jobs. I can't stress enough how bad this guy is. Another interesting tidbit is that INHS, who runs our IS department has blocked all of our employees from being able to google Agwunobi to be able to find out any information about this guy. Just what are they trying to hide?