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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Shame: Pam Stephenson

Let's welcome Ron Marshall of the New Grady Coalition for his thoughts on Pam Stephenson's boondoggle.

Today, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Pam Stephenson, the current interim CEO of Grady Hospital, has negotiated quite a financial boondoggle for herself. She is only the interim CEO because the board she heads recently fired Otis Story who was the CEO of Grady. The financial boon has raised many eyebrows, and here is Ron Marshall's view...

For years, I have urged the State Senate to hold hearings into ongoing and worsening corruption at Grady Memorial Hospital. The hospital is going broke, but wealthy contractors continue to get rich on the backs of Grady patients.

Now, the absolute worse has happened. Pam Stephenson, a person with absolutely no experience in running a hospital, fired the highly qualified Otis Story in January 2008, and then took over the extremely lucrative CEO position, for her self. Give Otis Story the same deal at least he was experienced.

Pam, your temerity in capturing this position was incredible. Talk to the Hawks & Falcons, they need this type of thinking. For you to have negotiated this flagrantly unethical masterpiece behind closed doors shows that you never had the Grady patient’s interests at heart.

The board claimed that this would be a new era in Open Government, and Grady would be transparent. Hello! Instead, Grady is back in the smoke-filled rooms, dealing out public money without restraint. The board wanted Pam to deliver a private hospital. She delivered. Now, Pam is this the paid off? Pam and the board put personal profit before patients.

This new board suppose to be the big business thinkers, is this how they made there fortunes? Maybe we need to have a corruption reality show, no need to audition.

I wonder how this board became a non profit so fast. It was with the help of John Lewis. I also wonder why this type of influence didn’t step in when the crisis started at Grady. The influential sure know when to get involved with certain events that impact their political livelihoods.

The AJC reports that Grady officials are furious over this deal, and well they should be. Many trustees never heard of the contract, much less approved it. How did this happen again?

State legislators went through the roof. "I think it's appalling," said Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta). "It is a sweetheart deal done in secret." Lynne Riley, a member of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, criticized the Authority for executing what she said was a secret contract. Public outrage over the deal could endanger some county funding for the hospital, she said. Why not ask for an investigation Lynn and Mike?

Mr. Jacobs, Ms. Riley, it is time to hold on the record public hearings. We must get to the bottom of the endless corruption. It must be a holiday for corruption, everybody is on it. The public now has no confidence in either the old board or the new board. Most legislators appeared to vote for the Grady deal without any understanding of what is at stake.

Let’s look at what’s ahead. We must now see if this new board is for the people or are they what they are, big business. When I attend the board meetings I do not see a representative from the community. Nobody that comes to any of our community meeting or anybody else’s I know of is on this board
With more hospitals closing at an alarming rate, just look in New Jersey. More than 62 public facilities have been closed. Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center in New Jersey is fighting for its life as we read.

We have to ask why? This is not just a Grady thing, this is a forget the poor people thing. Grady is in the wrong place, must of these facilities are. Look what happened to all of the low income housing in the downtown matrix.

Pam gave away the billion dollar hospital asset to the private board. The land that Grady sits on is even more valuable than the hospital itself, and it appears the true motivation of the industry captains has not been to save Grady, but to gut it. I still see a twin 60 story tower complex where Grady presently sits.

Why did Ms. Stephenson go along with this ill-advised privatization when the people were against the entire move? Now it is clear. Stephenson agreed to take the heat, in exchange for a secret deal to giveaway $1.2 Million dollars as a golden parachute.

The hypocrisy: Stephenson denied Otis Story the same golden parachute she is claiming for herself. Unlike Stephenson, Story was eminently qualified for the CEO Job, with a long and lustrous history of turning around public hospitals.

How can Stephenson claim that Story is bilking the hospital, and turn around and attempt to extract the same contract as Story?

Stephenson claims she is like a prime baseball player, who can command whatever she can get. But the record shows that Stephenson was a rookie, and would never have stood a national search. She never would have been considered a draft pick for the job.

Now, its de ja vu all over again.

Grady's biggest open-ended no bid contract is to Emory University for more than $50 Million a year. Despite this incredible amount of money paid to Emory, the JCAHO and other federal investigators have found Emory's care at Grady is so sub-standards, JCAHO is considering pulling Grady's accreditation.

Why hasn’t the media flagged that sound bite? If JCAHO does this, all other discussions are moot. That would be the end of Grady. Can you hear me now?

The New Grady Coalition has submitted more than 50 open records requests since 2004 directly to now-Grady CEO Pam Stephenson and Grady lawyer Tim Jefferson requesting the internal report Grady conducted on its no-bid contracts to politicians and to politically-connected cronies as well as requesting a report on the pension funds. Not a single request has been honored.

Why don’t the officials at Grady release audits of its pension fund? Has the pension fund been raided as part of the giveaway program?

It might interest you to know that Pam Stephenson did a similar move when she appointed herself CEO of Legacy Medical Center after Herb Weldon was fired.

Pam later became a consultant to the recently fired consulting firm, Marsal and Alvarez as they worked toward reopening the closed hospital at 501 Fairburn Road.

No one, not even Stephenson is above the law. Immediate release of records is urgent. State hearings are needed now! Don't settle for less. This is our money, our hospital, and our healthcare system. It all belongs to the people, and not to bigwig officials who claim they want to help, but in reality are looking for more giveaways.


Anonymous said...

This is good information and does not surprise me in the leaset. Maybe a federal investigation needs to be launched. This is so deep in the state that one does not know who is involved or not involved. Call the Feds in.

mike volpe said...

You are absolutely right that it is deeply imbedded into the state, however unfortunately the Feds have investigated Grady on multiple occasions. The investigation that I have pointed out most often occurred in 2005 by the HHS which concluded that

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

Very little was done besides then CEO Dr. Andrew Agwunobi losing his position. What needs to happen is serious media attention that doesn't suddenly filter away like it always has. I am not terribly optimistic that either the Atlanta area media or the national media will ever apply the sort of pressure necessary to root out the corruption.