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Friday, April 17, 2009

Dr. Andrew Agwunobi Strikes Again

Providence Health Care is a medical conglomerate that serves states including Washington, Idaho, and Montana. It's system includes about 2500 employees. Last month, the staff received this troubling email.

March 27, 2009

Dear Providence employee,

I am writing to inform you about some difficult decisions that will be made over the next two months to address current financial challenges and to ensure that our Providence ministries in Spokane and Stevens counties can continue to weather this serious economic recession. I know you are aware from previous communications that the financial outlook is challenging.

We as a system have experienced significant investment losses; the state budget cuts to hospitals and health care will be drastic; and, in keeping with our Mission, it is inevitable that we will treat many more uninsured and underinsured individuals in the months ahead. What you may not be aware of is that Providence Health Care is already experiencing significant financial challenges year-to-date in 2009. At this point, we are $9 million behind budget and this gap is increasing monthly. The economic recession is part of the cause, but we also have some productivity and expense overruns that have contributed to our poor financial performance.

As such, in addition to curtailing as many non-mission critical expenses as possible, we have made the difficult decision to implement some level of staff reductions in the Spokane hospitals during the months of April and May. As a faith-based organization, we consider any action that impacts our employees as an extremely serious step and, therefore, a great deal of work is being done to ensure that we minimize the number of people who will be directly affected. At this point we do not know how many staff will be impacted, but we will keep you informed as our internal analysis and that of the Wellspring consultants continues.

We know this news is unsettling for you and your families. Our commitment is to ensure that these changes occur with the deepest concern and compassion for employees. And where possible, we will work diligently to find opportunities within our own or other Providence ministries for those who are affected.

We are also committed to ensuring that throughout this challenging time, we continue to provide the high level of quality and service for which we are known to patients and their families.Through it all, Providence is committed to making the right decisions based on our values of respect, compassion, justice, excellence and stewardship. Our Catholic ministry has been in existence for over 123 years. Throughout our history, we have triumphed over many adversities. We are absolutely confident that we will emerge from these difficult times and will continue to fulfill our Mission for many generations to come.

Andy Agwunobi

Future correspondence said that staff reductions would number about one tenth of the overall staff. Now, this announcement of dire financial straits would come to surprise to many on the staff for several reasons. First, not but weeks earlier, Elaine Cuture, COO of Providence Sacred Heart Hospital, told a meeting upper staff that the system was making $8 billion yearly and expenses of 9 million dollars weekly (or about half a billion in expenses)

Furthermore, according to their latest financial statement, the Providence system has just over $1.7 billion in investments, including more than $200 million in cash. (page 21) So, it appears that the system shouldn't have any trouble paying their staff. Furthermore, when Agwunobi says that Providence is "$9 million behind budget" all this means is that they are $9 million behind the estimates they set. That certainly doesn't necessarily mean the system is in such dire straits that they need to cut staff.

Now, while lay offs have been announced only a handful of upper managers have actually been laid off. As such, the bulk of nearly 300 people yet to be laid off still haven't been identified. As such, staff morale is low. There is bickering and some back stabbing. Finally, while lay offs have been announced, the system has not yet announced that any services will be cut back. As such, it is entirely possible that the layoffs will create a situation in which the system will simply not have enough staff for all the services. You simply can't have any other situation if you cut staff but not services. Such a situation will put all the patients in danger.

Now, you might be asking why you should care. Unless you work at Providence or are a patient, these events are not that important. What is important is that the person, Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, is allowed to orchestrate these lay offs at all. About a year and a half ago, I wrote a piece about Agwunobi (Dr. Andy as he likes to be called) entitled Why is this Man Working? That was two jobs ago. Since 20001, he has had no less than six jobs on both coasts in four different cities. Make no mistake, Dr. Agwunobi wasn't just upwardly mobile. He has been in a position of CEO or board director in each of these positions.

In 20001, he took over as CEO of South Fulton Hospital in Atlanta. This is a 75 bed hospital that primarily serves the poor. When he took over, JCAHO, the organization that oversees hospitals, gave a marginal but passing grade to South Fulton. Dr. Agwunobi left South Fulton in 2003 and a couple months later JCAHO failed South Fulton and placed it on probation. Of course, it was up to successors to clean up the mess he started. He then moved onto Grady Hospital. About a year later, CMS, a division of Health and Human Services, issued a report on Grady Hospital and its conclusion was

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

In the aftermath of this report, he was removed as CEO. He then became the COO of St. Joseph's medical center in California. He lasted there about a year, and then moved to Florida to become a board member of Wellcare. (another health care system and this was located in Florida) He stayed at Wellcare for six months, cashed out about a million dollars worth of stock options, and moved onto head the AHCA (a government agency in Florida's Department of Health). His first move as head of AHCA was to investigate none other than Well Care. His department partnered with about ten government agencies to raid the offices of Well Care. Immediately following the raids, the stock of Well Care plummetted. He stayed head of AHCA for about a year until the heat of the clear conflict of interest of raiding his former employer finally caused him to resign (though local news claimed he was looking to spend more time with his family) Now, he has spent the last six months as CEO of Providence.

Now, try and connect the dots. We have an incompetent and a corrupt individual. Everywhere he has been has ended in disaster. South Fulton took several years to get out from under the probation slapped on it in the aftermath of Agwunobi's reign. Grady was nearly shut down at the end of 2007 by JCAHO. Wellcare no longer exists in nearly any form. What do you think will happen to Providence Health Systems. We have an indivdual claiming that the system is in dire financial straits even though all the evidence says otherwise. There's no way to verify what he is saying. Unless he augments his plan, he will create an understaffed hospital that will simply be a danger to the patients, much like the situation he lead at Grady Hospital.

The real story is NOT the situation materializing at Providence. Anyone who has followed his career could predict this. Furthermore, the over under is another nine months before he moves onto continue his reign of terror elsewhere, likely the East coast since that's the pattern forming now. The real story is how the board of Providence could hire this guy in the face of such overwhelming evidence that he is nothing less than a menace to any entity that gets near him. Isn't it their fiduciary duty to conduct the sort of research I just did? I asked how he could still be working and since two more employers gave him employment. How much more damage will he do to the nation's health care system before people finally say enough is enough.


Shirley Pigott MD said...


In a two-sentence-or-less summary, what has happened at Grady since your exposé?

Shirley Pigott MD

mike volpe said...

Pretty much the same things that were occurring. Pam Stephenson tried to run the place, be a member of the board, and be a State Senator all at once. Patient care, corruption, and conflicts continue at the same pace.

Shirley Pigott MD said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Do you know Dr. Agwunobi? According to JACHO website South Fulton medical center scores were 94 and 97 out of one 100 when he was the CEO. Out of interest do you have something personal against him?

mike volpe said...

I have nothing personal against Dr. AGwunobi, but that data is simply inaccurate. JCAHO gives a much more detained analysis of their grading. It wouldn't simply be 94 and 97 out of a hundred. Second, I stand by my reporting. He came in with South Fulton getting the equivalent of C grades. Months after he left, they, South Fulton, failed their JCAHO inspection. I spoke with a rep of JCAHO who explained it all to me.

Here is the link to South Fulton's reports. You will notice the 2004 report when South Fulton had their accreditation suspended. The June 2002 report says "accredited with requirements for improvement". How exactly does that translate into a 97 out of 100 score?

Furthermore, why are you fixated on South Fulton? He hasn't worked there since 2003. What about the rest of his story?

Anonymous said...

I'm a manager that is currently suffering under his rule here in Spokane, WA. Everything has gone to Hell since he's been here. Now we've been told we have to take a pay cut even though our hospital is making money.

Please investigate what he is doing to us here in Spokane and the Steven's County hospitals.

Anonymous said...

Now we have to take mandatory time off on top of a pay cut here at Mount Carmel Hospital, currently under Agwunobi's dictatorship. I have recruiters calling me asking "What's going on with Providence"? they go on to tell me about great opportunities elsewhere. I keep hearing from leadership that the "rats" will jump ship like it's our duty to put up with this. Pretty soon, good managers will have to jump ship as no one can live with this treatment. I expect it to continue until someone gets a clue that this guy is bad news. Wake up Providence and get rid of this guy or you'll find yourself without any management team.

mike volpe said...

If any of the anonymous posters want to speak with me on or off the record, please contact me on my email

Anonymous said...

You should really examine Spokane now. A large multispecialty clinic named Rockwood has decided to join the competing hospital because of his ineptness and inability to integrate them into Providence. His responses are completely inappropriate tirades for a CEO of a major hospital system, and not to mention inacuracies as well as pure untruths. It looks like another hospital system is preparing for disasterous outcomes under his "rule". Why do organizations keep hiring this guy?

Anonymous said...

In regards to the bombshell developments between Sacred Heart and Rockwood clinic; Dr Agwunobi sent out a letter the afternoon of 10/23 at 4:30. At 11:30 pm a revised letter was sent out, on a Friday night. The only difference was a single sentence was removed from the initial letter. That sentence was, "We have the full support of our regional and system leadership...."
Maybe someone at Prov corporate finally googled this guy's name.

Anonymous said...


December 22, 2009

Dear Colleagues,

As we finish a challenging year and look optimistically towards 2010, I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to all Providence employees for the outstanding quality and compassionate care you provide patients every day. I truly appreciate the strength and dedication you bring to the Providence ministry of healing.

2009 has been both uplifting and challenging. Our accomplishments have been many, including:

Providence Sacred Heart was awarded the prestigious American Association of Critical Care Nurses Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence for both adult ICU and NICU (the only hospital in the country to receive both awards!).
We had successful Joint Commission reviews at Providence Sacred Heart, Holy Family, and the first ever Joint Commission accreditation at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chewelah.
The grand opening of the new Mount Carmel Hospital in Colville.
The new Transitional Care Unit at St. Joseph Care Center specializing in cardiac and orthopedic rehab.
PAML successfully completed its joint venture with Catholic Health Initiatives.
And lastly, we’re ending the year with solid financial performance following the challenges of state budget cuts and a recession.

However, this has also been a difficult year for some of our employees and their families, as well as for other members of our community as we continue to feel the effects of the economic downturn. As a result, instead of giving the traditional grocery gift card to all employees, our Providence leadership team has decided to provide a significant contribution to our ministries' benevolent (Help) funds and the Spokane Food Bank to help the most in need. I hope you will agree that this decision is very much in line with our Mission to care for the poor and vulnerable during this Christmas season.

The proposed alignment between Rockwood Clinic and Community Health Systems has been very much in the news lately and we anticipate a decision from Rockwood this week. I want to assure you that regardless of the outcome of the proposed transaction, Providence will continue to be a strong, world–class, comprehensive, regional medical system focused on ensuring that our communities have the best health care. And, of course our underlying Mission – to reveal God’s love for all, particularly the poor and vulnerable, through our compassionate service – will continue to direct all our efforts.

We look to 2010 with a strong vision for the future. With the support, expertise and compassion of each of you, we enter the New Year well-positioned to build on our successes and strengths.

I want to keep the lines of communication open, so please feel free to contact me or your managers with any questions or concerns. Thank you again for all you do.

And, on behalf of me and my family, I want to wish each of you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday and a happy new year.


Andy Agwunobi, MD
Chief Executive

Anonymous said...

* Story
* Comments 01

February 26, 2010 in News, City
Sacred Heart boots Rockwood from hospital offices
John Stucke The Spokesman-Review

The Rockwood Clinic will have to vacate 48,000 square feet of offices, patient exam rooms and surgery suites on the Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center campus after failing to rework lease agreements.

The changes are the latest fallout from Rockwood’s surprise $50 million sale last year to Community Health Systems Inc. to form an integrated health care system with Deaconess Medical Center.

Rockwood, which had strong ties with Sacred Heart until the sale was announced, has drawn the ire of Sacred Heart administrators. While rhetoric may have softened, tough decisions continue to be made, such as insisting Rockwood vacate its premises by June 30.

The move affects five leases covering about 38,000 square feet in the Sacred Heart Doctors Building, including Rockwood’s ambulatory surgery center on the seventh floor. Another lease covers 10,000 square feet in the Providence Heart & Vascular Institute.

“Unfortunately, allowing physicians employed by CHS – our primary competitor – to occupy prime space on the Sacred Heart campus for years to come is not in the best interest of Providence,” wrote Sacred Heart administrators in an open letter to staff.

Rockwood is the region’s largest medical clinic, with 133 physicians and about 900 staff working at 32 clinics. With 160,000 patients each year and a wide variety of services, it is a key player in hospital admission numbers and economics.

Rockwood administrators have said they intend to refer 90 percent of their patients needing hospitalization to Deaconess within five years. The clinic has historically sent 90 percent of patients to Sacred Heart.

Rockwood physician and executive Dr. Craig Whiting said the decisions would not disrupt patient care. The clinic is considering a range of options, he said, declining to reveal where Rockwood might relocate.

Sharon Fairchild, vice president of communications for Sacred Heart, said canceling the leases will ensure that the hospital can accommodate other doctors’ practices and programs.

She noted that Sacred Heart wishes to maintain its long relationships with Rockwood doctors. They will retain medical privileges at the hospital and Sacred Heart will continue to provide time in its own ambulatory surgery center and operating rooms.

Rockwood had attempted to keep its leases – ranging from three to nine years – by seeking Sacred Heart’s consent to allow the clinic to assign its leases to Community Health Systems.

Sacred Heart officials pondered the request for two months before rejecting it.

Neither Whiting nor Fairchild disclosed the value of the leases.

Unknown said...

Have you at all looked into his brother John Agwunobi? Here is another guy that looks to have a squeaky clean appearance but I don't think that is all that meets the eye. The guy was appointed by George Bush to Admiral for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Any appointment by George Bush is questionable to begin with. He then spins that into an Executive position with Walmart for 7 years. He leaves Walmart to be Vice Chair of USADF an African Development Foundation for 8 years. During that time he picks up a couple of Board seats at some public companies. Just recently he becomes the Chief Nutrition Officer (A newly created position) for the really questionable company Herbalife that many believe run a pyramid scheme. Does the apple not far from his brother or are these guys misunderstood and their records impeccable?