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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Grady Hospital and the Definition of Insanity (Updated)

An old proverb goes like this

the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

According to the AJC, Otis Story, who left under murky circumstances, is in the process of suing cash strapped Grady Hospital for $2 million dollars in severence.

A lawyer for Otis Story, who was earning $600,000 a year, said he is negotiating with Grady.The issue may focus on whether Story was fired for good reason and whether the Grady board members provided him with written notice and a chance to defend himself. His attorney said they didn't.

If he was fired for cause, he gets no severance, but a hearing process is required.

When Story was fired two weeks ago, after less than a year in the job, Grady board chairwoman Pam Stephenson did not cite any failure on his part. The board, she said, wanted a change in administration.

Grady board member Geoffrey Heard, however, said at the time, "The position needed strengthening."

While that is interesting, and likely has a lot more back story than the AJC is reporting, here is the most interesting part of the story. (no pun intended)

The Grady board has replaced Story temporarily with Stephenson, its chairwoman, a move that has created controversy, since it places her as hospital CEO as well as head of the board that oversees the Grady system. Stephenson is also a state legislator.

Stephenson could not be reached for comment.

From the late nineties through much of the beginning of this decade, State Senator Charles Walker committed so much criminality at Grady Hospital and beyond that he was charged with 138 felonies, convicted of 127, and sentenced to 10 years in jail (or about three months per felony). He was able to accomplish this by using a sphere of influence that he created. For instance, as a powerful State Senator he had great influence in the purse strings to Grady Hospital. He used that influence and parlayed that into extorting Grady Hospital into hiring up to ten times as many temps from the temp agency he owned as Grady actually wanted or needed. (Many times he demanded up to fifty temps be hired per day even though Grady only wanted or needed five) He also ran a newspaper and threatened all those who didn't play ball with him with bad press in the newspaper.

Among the many lessons of the Walker case, is the corrossive and corrupting influence of allowing one individual to hold so many duel roles that they have a conflict of interest. Robert Brown, long time prominent board member, received a lucrative contract from cash strapped Grady Hospital in 2002 for his architecture firm, RL Brown and Associates, for a major expansion of Grady Hospital. These sorts of conflicts of interest are common at Grady Hospital. The entire Grady Task Force is filled with folks with a professional, legislative, or financial interest in Grady Hospital. The members are exclusively folks from Emory University and Morehouse College (the two schools that staff Grady), former and current board members like Robert Brown himself, and those with current or past contracts with Grady, like Michael Russell of H.J. Russell. There are no whistleblowers on the board, no community activist, there is no one on this board that doesn't themselves have a conflict of interest already. It should surprise no one then that the Grady Task Force has come up with a plan that will do nothing but make it easier to corrupt the hospital going forward.

Despite this pattern of conflict of interest leading to corruption, after Story was fired under murky circumstances, he was replaced by Pam Stephenson, who herself has all sorts of conflicts. She will now concurrently be head of the board, CEO, and a State Legislator. One could say that she has influence in every single decision at Grady Hospital, from hiring and firing, contracts, purse one will be able to sneeze there now without Stephenson knowing about it.

Apparently no one has learned any lessons from the previous cases of corruption from Walker, to Brown, to the Task Force. When I say no one, I don't mean the corruptors, the media, or any of their facilatators. I mean the folks that wind up footing the bill for all of this corruption, the folks, the tax payers themselves.

It seems pretty obvious that there is a clear pattern of behavior of the corruptors, and they aren't going to change. The media is not going to report it, and Grady will continue to be corrupted. Ultimately, it is the tax payers that will get the shaft. Yet, they sit idly by while this goes on and usually out in the open and right in front of them. The powers that be at Grady aren't going to change. The media isn't going to change. The only group that can change is the one ultimately footing the bill. Unless the folks rise up and demand more, we will continue to have the exact same pattern of behavior over and over and over again.

Epilogue: For better understanding and context, you may want to read this updated summary of the entire Grady Hospital fiasco. Also, here are the recommendations my colleagues and I have developed for fixing Grady Hospital.


It should come as no surprise that Stephenson used her confluence of power to no good. Here is the update and how she profited from her simultaneous roles.

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