Audit Finds Inadequate Financial Records Related to King/Drew Medical Center
Because financial records related to Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center were inadequate, Los Angeles County auditors were unable to account for millions of dollars that the county spent each year for physician training and clinical programs at the facility, according to a county fiscal audit expected to be released Friday, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to a copy of the report obtained by the Times, auditors found that:
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science has not kept adequate records of how it has spent county funds, and as a result, auditors could not determine how many physician trainees work at King/Drew.
- Drew and Los Angeles County did not draft accountability measures as they promised in fiscal year 2001-2002.
- The county paid Drew to operate physician-training programs in nephrology and cardiology, but those programs actually were administered by the University of California-Los Angeles.
- According to the Times, physicians at King/Drew earned "far more proportionally" than their peers at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, which also is a county hospital.
County Auditor-Controller J. Tyler McCauley, whom county Health Director Dr. Thomas Garthwaite recruited to conduct the audit, said there is not a sufficient system of checks and balances in the county's contract with Drew. He added, "The absence of the records makes it hard to determine" if the county received the services for which it paid.
In related news, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education in a letter dated July 29 proposed placing King/Drew's orthopedic surgery program on probation because of poor training and alleged intimidation of residents to prevent them from reporting concerns about the program to superiors. ACGME found the program "faltered at so many levels that it should be voluntarily closed -- or risk being closed" by the group, the Times reports.
ACGME found that residents were required to perform too many surgeries and work beyond an 80-hour-per-week limit, which meant that they "did not have enough time to learn orthopedic surgery skills," according to the Times. Only 62.5% of residents taking exams to become certified specialists passed the tests during the past five years.
Garthwaite and Drew's interim president, Harry Douglas, have agreed to phase out the program and seek a relationship with another hospital. The program is no longer accepting new residents.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Thursday said the most recent disclosures about King/Drew "only heightened their skepticism" toward Drew, the Times reports. Earlier this week, the board cited "grave concerns" about extending the county contract with the university to run physician-training programs at King/Drew, according to the Times. Supervisors and Garthwaite also said that King/Drew did not give them a copy of the accreditation council's letter until the Times informed them of its contents.
Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke said she plans to create a hotline for public complaints about King/Drew. "I really should not be doing this, but I feel as though I have to have some mechanism to get information," Burke said. She added that there are people at the hospital who have "this impression that if you bury something, it's going to go away. It does not go away" (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 8/13).