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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pam Stephenson and the Cover Up of Corruption

On December 15th 2000, Sheriff Elect Derwin Brown was gunned down in front of his home two days before he was to be sworn in as Sheriff of Dekalb County in Georgia. The perpetrators of this heinous murder included several individuals all with ties to the Sheriff's Department in Dekalb County in the group's ringleader was Syd Dorsey, then outgoing Sheriff. Worse than that, this crime was the culmination of years of corruption within the Sheriff's Department that had more former Sheriff's in jail than not in jail. Despite the fact that this despicable crime should have shined a bright light on a culture of corruption within the Department that needed immediate wholesale changes, the selected Sheriff Thomas Brown made only cosmetic changes within the department following Derwin Brown's (no relation) murder. As such, Derwin Brown, who ran on a platform of rooting out the very corruption that wound up killing him, continues to have his death be in vain.

How could such a heainous crime and the obscene corruption that followed it be met with such a marginal response? It's because the media in the area took little interest in what the department did in the aftermath of this heinous crime. Because the media cared very little just how much reform the aftermath of Derwin Brown's death would bring to the department, very little reform was actually brought. Unfortunately, when examining the crime at Grady Hospital and the areas surrounding it, one finds a very troubling pattern like the one followed in the aftermath of Derwin Brown's death.

Back in 2004, the Department of Health and Human Services completed an in depth investigation of Grady Hospital and its conclusions were

Grady Hospital poses and immediate threat to the health and safety of the patients

Much like the cosmetic reforms after Derwin Brown's death, the media in Atlanta gave very little attention to this report. One would find nothing more than a by line in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and the television media barely made any mention of it. There was little examination of how it came to be that Grady, one of the biggest hospitals in the country, was becoming a threat to the very people it was meant to heal. Because they didn't, Grady Hospital did little to fix the inherent problems that created these findings and no one noticed.

In 2005, Kevin Kuritzky was expelled from Emory University Medical School with 41 days left before he was to graduate. At the time, Kuritzky was leveling serious charges of corruption at the higher ups with Emory and Grady Hospital. Yet, he fellow students would have no little of his situation because the Emory Wheel, the schoo's newspaper, wrote exactly 2 stories about the situation. Thus, while one of their colleagues was being expelled on the eve of his graduation, the entire student body was kept essentially in the dark because their media refused to cover the story.

At the end of November 2007, JCAHO threatened to revoke the accreditation of Grady Hospital. This was a stunning and nearly unprecedented move. It had only happened once prior in the history of JCAHO, King-Drew Hospital in Los Angeles. After a flurry of attention after JCAHO made the announcement, this story, like most involving Grady Hospital, lost all appeal in the Atlanta media. In fact, since threatening Grady with revocation of their license, JCAHO has actually wound up doing absolutely nothing. Furthermore, the actual report that JCAHO filed that produced this action has never been made public. No one in the Atlanta media has made an effort through FOIA to attempt to make this report public. As such, after making a big deal of it in November, there has been nearly no mention of this since. Many local area activists I have spoken with have made their own attempts to take a look at the report. Many of them have told me that they have been stone walled by higher ups within Grady Hospital. In fact, one name mentioned as a perpetrator of the stonewalling is Pam Stephenson, herself.

Back in February of this year, Otis Story Jr. was fired as CEO of Grady Hospital after less than a year on the job. The circumstances surrounding his firing have never fully been explained besides nebulous statements like "going in another direction". Sources I have spoken with suspect that Story simply wouldn't go along with the program of corruption. Whatever the reason, one thing is clear is that the media has no interest in finding out for itself what it is. Of course, after he was fired, the board replaced Story with Pam Stephenson. To say this was a controversial move is an understatement. At the time, Stephenson was also simultaneously Chairmwoman of the Board at Grady Hospital and a State Senator. This obscene conflict of interest and accumulation of power also received little if any attention.

Months later, this story received new media attention when Stephenson used her centralized power to award herself a contract that potentially could reach seven figures. Of course, that was nearly three weeks ago. That particular story turned out to have a twenty four hour life in the Atlanta area news cycle. Since then, there has been scant attention paid to the situation. As such, it appears that Stephenson will be able to consummate the contract and media will again look the other way.

This latest episode continues a long legacy of corruption and media disinterest involving all things Grady Hospital. The first amendment's main value is not in the freedom of speech it provides individuals. In fact, the first amendment was meant so that media like the Atlanta Journal Constitution provided a check against the powerful so that this very corruption would exposed if and when it occurred. In fact, the best check on corruption is a vigorous media always looking to expose it. One of the biggest factors for the long term systemic corruption at Grady Hospital is the media total lack of interest in reporting on it. Time after time, corruption goes on and the media is largely silent in the face of it. What has occurred with the contract involving Pam Stephenson and the manner in which the media in the area has treated it, is yet another example. Until the media decides that corruption is unacceptable Grady will continue to be corrupted and the corruptors will operate with impugnity.


Anonymous said...

I live just outside the atl and have a real fear of getting injured and hearing, "you're gonna be ok, we gonna take you to grady". this place is/has been a rathole for years. anytime you have bums rioting in the lobby b/c you stating charging a few dollars for presciptions, it's time to go. any other hospital in any other city would not survive.

also, pam stephenson most likely has no college degree. if she does, she hasnt been able to produce it. story breaking on that one.

mike volpe said...

I am told she has made the claim that she has a law degree from U of Michigan. Again, if pattern holds, this will become a story for a day or two and then go away.