Agreement Reached on Physician Overpayments
Kern Medical Center will phase out a controversial physician pay program over the next 60 days because the system "did not have the internal controls that [were] needed for the taxpayers of Kern County," Kern County Supervisor Michael Rubio said Tuesday, the Bakersfield Californian reports (Burger, Bakersfield Californian, 7/11).
A November 2005 audit found that eight physicians in the KMC OB/GYN department were overpaid at least $329,579.22 in "professional fees." The audit recommended that KMC recover the funds from the doctors.
However, KMC CEO Peter Bryan placed measures on the board's agenda to retroactively rewrite contracts for the physicians, but later removed them because of a meeting with the auditor controller about the issue.
On Monday, Bryan said the contracts were incorrectly interpreted by auditors and the physicians were properly paid (Hagedorn, Bakersfield Californian, 7/10). Bryan and Kern County Auditor Controller Ann Barnett on Tuesday said they have reached an agreement to resolve the dispute.
One doctor will repay $100,000 to the county, while the other doctors will be paid about $186,000 for legitimate expenses, Bryan said.
Barnett said she has not yet agreed to any specific numbers.
Denise Callahan, director for the audit company Macias Consulting Group, criticized the way the physicians' trust fund was operated. She said the fund's first administrator was "given a lot of autonomy" and was not accustomed to working in government, "where accountability and transparency are paramount." She added that the administrator was "lackadaisical in keeping records," which led to concerns of overpayment (Bakersfield Californian, 7/11).
A separate evaluation by Macias Consulting Group found that KMC has improved in three of eight financial indicators examined. Macias also found that one of eight recommendations for improving controls on physician pay was implemented last year (Burger, Bakersfield Californian, 7/9).