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Monday, December 31, 2007

It's All About Politics...

I would like to welcome Ron Marshall of the Grady Coalition for another cross posting. Anyone that is a veteran of my work on Grady will see that much of what he says has been mentioned here before as well. Now, without further adieu...

The Grady crisis has unfolded, and the media has sounded a drumbeat that we need an "independent" private board to remove the board from politics, and insulate Grady from conflict of interest.

Now, here is the flip-flop we've been predicting. Emory wants to control this board.
Instead of nominating truly independent persons, the chairman nominated has been a top Emory official, and even a member of Emory's trustee board. What gives? This is the independent person we've been promised? This is not about thepolitics? Come on. Now we know what we suspected from day one, this is entirely about the politics, and it appears that Emory (who dominates the Grady task force) is the dominant player looking to achieve power. Emory is feeding on Grady like dolphins feed on minnows.

To be clear, this is not an attack on the man, but on the principle. The purported purpose was to get someone totally neutral. Instead, it appears Emory wants their own man to run Grady behind closed doors.

The chilling effect of a private board running a publicly-funded hospital became all too clear in the Fulton County report, in which examples are given of public hospitals that went private solely to hide their books and operations from Open Records requests. Attorney Anthony L. Cochran filed suit against Thomasville's Archbold Memorial Hospital for evading Open Records requests by establishing a private board, the exact move that Grady is attempting.

How long will Atlanta and Georgia be run by secrecy, and without open government, or behind closed doors? The Atlanta Captains are on the right track but on the wrong train.

We do not have a single detail of the purported private board plan. The Atlanta Journal Constitution is the most distinguished paper in this area, and surely, it should find out the details before it advocates a major reform. The AJC claims that “Running Grady by a private board does not amount to "privatization".

Oh? What dictionary are they using? Why does the AJC continue to duck my good-faith query to find out what exactly do they mean? How can the AJC say with a straight face that private does not mean private?

I'm sure the citizens of Thomasville were also reassured that private does not mean private, and that they would always have a transparent system. Up until the day it actually became private. Then, the hospital locked their books. No one is going to see what happens in that hospital again, ever.

Do we really want the same fate for Grady?

No matter how you slice the salami, Grady is going to remain publicly funded, and thus remain a tax-payer controlled hospital. Claiming a private board will find millions or billions from thin air is a pipe dream. No sane person is going to donate the money. Our nation was founded on the idea of "no taxation without
representation." The AJC calls this notion "outdated." Since when? Who is really going to pay tax dollars without representation on how Grady spends that money?

The entire private board plan appears to be an attempt to avoid oversight, regulation and accountability. No one has said what this private board will do. It is a secret. I don't like secrets. I would like Open Government, and for everything to be spelled out why we need such a board. Now the board is talking about a lease. To whom at what price? The board decided to hold a public meeting two days after Christmas, why? Trying to maintain the secret?

Private boards sure have gotten hospitals into trouble in other cities. Privatization did not work for Los Angeles. Would Grady be turned over to private interests aligned with Tenet or HCA? HMOs and private boards have created some of the worst disasters in US history. Health Corporation of America (HCA) has paid the largest criminal fines in US history, more than $1.7 Billion dollars. HCA is Emory University's largest partner. How can we be certain that HCA does not use this opportunity to eliminate Grady as a competitor, or to sell off Grady's assets, such as Grady's real estate?

Someone is going to benefit from this transfer of Grady to private hands. I hope the media will help us find out who will benefit first. It certainly looks like an attempt to
put the fox in charge of the henhouse. I see another cover-up.

How could a truly private board respond to anyone? The whole point of several AJC articles seems to be that we need to insulate Grady from "politicians". But in a democracy, politicians must report to the people. How would Grady respond to the people, if it is insulated from elected politicians and the people they serve?

Again, private interests may plan to "save" Grady by chopping it up and selling its
assets.How much is Grady worth, the land and other assets.

What the plan doesn't do.The plan ignores the issues of Emory University's one-sided contract to manage Grady, Emory's billings and the fact that Emory is Grady's chief competitor through Crawford Long Hospital. Tens of millions of dollars are being lost every year because of inadequate documentation and poor oversight. W asked to see the books many times and to this day the Grady officials have denied our request.

Emory now appears determined to pick the actual board. There is no hope of
re-adjusting the relationship between Emory and Grady if Emory controls the private board controlling Grady.

Follow the awarded contracts and who is connected to them!

Mismanagement of Grady by former and current officials must be explained.
How did the past administration allow Grady to slip into a free-fall? This must be cleared up. Robert Brown and other Grady officials have never explained the corruption that led to the 2005 conviction of Charles Walker and the subsequent investigation of Grady by the federal CMS.

The New Grady coalition has submitted more than 50 open records requests, but Grady refuses to answer. Until Grady obeys open record and open meeting laws, why would the public have confidence? We want to know where all the money is going.

If Georgia's people want a private/public Grady board, we need a strong legislative oversight committee, enactment of strong conflict-of-interest laws and renegotiation of the one-sided sweetheart no-bid contracts. We need clear audits and explanations for past and present mismanagement. Nothing can be covered up. We need an absolutely clear sky.

How could any debate about a $700 Million dollar institution not be political? If people were angels, we would not need government. But, things being what they are, we need Open Government with public oversight.

We need a media that will investigate and find out exactly why Emory is attempting take advantage of this situation. We need to know our exact options, potential consequences, and then the people must decide with a vote.

Media, I ask you. Why would the task force recommend a man with incredible conflict of interest? Who is to benefit? Exactly how is this supposed to restore confidence in Grady, and how does this raise a single dime for Grady? Atlanta's Captains of Industry are telling us to "trust us." We are willing to trust them, but only if they trust us with what they are really up to.

Where is the JCAHO report?

Most important, why has the JCAHO report not been released? How can the problems at Grady be solved until the single most important document concerning Grady is released? If JCAHO actually pulls Grady's accreditation (and they very well might) saving Grady is going to be extremely expensive and possibly impossible. We need to transform this debate and make certain that Grady is brought up to code and is safe. Until that happens, nothing else matters.

We have a twin problem. We need to save Grady, but we also need to find out why the media is not asking the hard questions.

Several things to add... First, the media's role in this corruption cannot be understated. It is exactly because of the lack of reporting on this story that the corruption continues. The still not released JCAHO report is just one example. JCAHO's step is nearly unprecedented. Only King Drew has ever had their accreditation threatened with revocation. Yet, we still haven't seen the details of JCAHO's report because Grady won't release. Given the magnitude of the step, the citizens have a right to know what specifically lead JCAHO to move this way.

The Grady board is nothing but a sham and the privatization plan is the same. First, privatization doesn't address any of the systemic problems that clearly affect Grady that lead to JCAHO's actions. Second, the creators of this purported plan have never explained how privatization will solve the corrupting of the finances that have plagued Grady.

If Emory is using this crisis in order to make one more power play vis a vis Grady that should also not surprise anyone reading my work in the slightest because Emory has used Grady for years for less than noble reasons.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent and very accurate commentary. Numerous instances of political corruption and wink and nod back room deals are quite prevelent in the metro Atlanta area.. This is as a result of week government, toothless ethics laws, and most of all the media's lack of interest or inability to cover and openly and continously cover these corrupt practices being perpetrated by our officials in Government. The origin and motivation behind the 1st Amendment to our Constitution was to enable the press to freely and openly express the "truth" on issues effecting the citizens. What has happend to these ideals. Is the media scared of the corrupt practices or have they become part of the corrupt practice.. We all must stand for honesty and accountability in Government and media.. Happy New Year to all!! Charles Rhea Shaw III, Atlanta, GA.