Monday, September 14, 2015

TOP STORY >> Farrer quits as head at hospital

Leader staff writer

The CEO and chief nursing officer of North Metro Medical Center resigned Wednesday after a doctor with an alleged drinking problem was asked to resign and did so, but was then reinstated by the hospital’s owners.

The doctor, Tracy Phillips, is under investigation by the Arkansas Medical Board.
State Rep. Joe Farrer (R- Austin), who was the interim CEO for the hospital for the past three months, asked the doctor to resign over concerns that patient care could be comprised.

His predecessor, Cindy Stafford, was fired in May.

Without naming the doctor, Farrer said, “You don’t just fire a doctor. There is a process, but the individual did submit his resignation to me.”

Phillips’ name had been supplied to The Leader over the past month by a number of sources alleging a multitude of issues, from drinking to sexual misconduct.

Shortly after Phillips resigned, two of the three owners of the hospital, Rock Bordelon and Don Cameron, came up from their Allegiance Health Management offices in Shreveport, La., met with Phillips and reinstated him.

The owners who made the decision to reinstate the doctor are also principal officers in the management company and the firm that helps provide health insurance to employees.

The hospital has had issues ever since Allegiance Health Management took over combined ownership and operation of the hospital about three years ago. There have been unpaid bills, missing health insurance payments for its staff, thousands of dollars owed in backpay to emergency-room doctors and partners like Cornerstone Hospital, an acute-care provider, which elected to move out of the hospital building and city.

 “I don’t know what they were thinking, you’d have to ask them,” Farrer said. “All I know is that I could not in good conscience be party to that.”

Deb Bostic, the chief nursing officer, resigned over the same concerns. “We were touted as Allegiance Health Management’s flagship hospital, but I don’t believe they have the ethical and moral standards to run this hospital,” she said. “They do not have the capacity to run a hospital.”

Farrer, who has given 20 years to the hospital, still loves North Metro, he said. “I took the job of CEO to save the hospital and to help keep 350 people employed. I even invested my money in what I believe. The staff is wonderful.”

Farrer had been interim CEO for the past three months and the hospital’s chief operating officer for six months before that. He took over when the hospital seemed to be drowning in financial problems with multiple unpaid bills and numerous shut-off notices from the water department and electric company. “I got most of the bills paid and had us in good standing with all of our vendors. Yes, we still had a few financial issues, but we were much improved.”

Farrer added that staff care was always solid and “it’s a shame that one doctor could ruin it for everyone.”

Bostic, who was actually born in the hospital, started her medical career there in 1989 as a scrub nurse. She had been the hospital’s chief nursing officer for 16 months and had no major issues with the quality of care. “Patient care is top notch,” Bostic said, “We have a very seasoned and caring staff.”

Bostic has already been hired on with a company as a traveling nurse and is looking forward to new adventures. “But the hospital was my family and I will miss them,” she said. “That was the hospital of choice for my parents and grandparents. I’ve spent half my life working there.”

She said she was able to quickly get a new job because she has strong standards and a moral compass, unlike those heading up Allegiance.

Allegiance is also dealing with a pair of whistleblower suits. One includes a former employee of a Mississippi Allegiance facility who received almost $3.5 million as part of a string of settlements where 18 hospitals, including Allegiance, in seven states agreed to pay $20.4 million over allegations they broke federal law by receiving Medicare reimbursements for psychiatric services that were not “medically reasonable or necessary.”

A similar lawsuit has been filed against Allegiance in Arkansas. The case remains under seal until a legal decision is rendered.

Allegiance denies wrongdoing and still operates outpatient therapy programs at 17 locations in five states, according to its website.

Louisiana Health Care Group filed a lawsuit against Bordelon and Allegiance in 2007 over funding procedures and was awarded close to $600,000.