Los Angeles County Audit Raises Questions About Billing Practices at King/Drew Medical Center
About 24 contract physicians at Martin Luther King/Drew Medical Center billed Los Angeles County for hundreds of hours this year that could not be explained, "suggesting that fiscal mismanagement and possible fraud persist at the public hospital," according to an audit sent on Thursday to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services audit, which focused primarily on five months of 2005, shows that oversight was "virtually nonexistent across many medical departments" at the hospital, according to the Times. The audit also indicates that medical department chairs did not confirm the work hours reported by contract physicians and were not familiar with county rules.
In addition, the audit indicates that payments by King/Drew to emergency department doctors for training medical residents might have been improper because academic services are supposed to be covered under the county's contract with Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Sciences.
Thomas Garthwaite, director of county DHS, wrote in an accompanying memo to the board, "As we have continued to find and fix weaknesses in nearly every system at (King/Drew), it is not surprising that we find weaknesses in physician contracting as well." Garthwaite said he intends to recoup the money the department believed was owed by doctors. He also said he will recommend ways to strengthen contracting rules this fall.
Supervisor Gloria Molina said Garthwaite was acting too slowly in addressing the audit's findings. "Unfortunately, I don't get the assurances I should be receiving from Dr. Garthwaite that he's going to be taking immediate action about these items," she said. She added, "It clearly points to mismanagement" of county DHS (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 7/15).