HOSPITALS: Tenet Leads Charge To Set Up Ethics Programs
California's largest for-profit hospital chain, Santa Barbara-based Tenet Healthcare Corp., is leading the way in the development of ethics programs in hospitals and health care companies across the country. Neil Hadley, Tenet's vice president of ethics and business conduct, launched the program that has become the "model ... for the health care industry," the Los Angeles Times reports. "We've gotten many calls from other people who want to pick our brain," said Hadley, who holds "possibly the first full-time ethics position" in a health care company. He added, "They're jumping on the bandwagon." The Tenet program was developed as part of the settlement of federal fraud charges against Tenet's predecessor, National Medical Enterprises.
Among the issues addressed by Tenet's program and others are "[b]illing problems, financial conflict of interest, harassment and staffing levels." But the programs also include scenarios that challenge employees to think about how they would handle issues like non-compliance with hospital procedures on the disposal of hazardous waste. The Tenet program "starts with a code of conduct that is issued to every employee," and it requires that new hires go through introductory ethics training and take annual refresher courses. Training includes "case studies taken from the company's toll-free ethics hotline," which is available to everyone, including patients. Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., also has jumped on the ethics bandwagon, hiring "ethics veteran Alan Yuspeh as a senior vice president to create and oversee an ethics and compliance program." Under the program, Columbia has trained "more than 500 designated hospital and surgical center ethics officers" in its facilities. "At a minimum, we want to ensure compliance with complex laws and regulations," Yuspeh said. "But in a larger sense, we want to do the right thing," he added (Pitzer, 6/8).