Thursday, February 23, 2006

UMDNJ's Troubles: An Update

There are yet more revelations about the embattled University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), now operating under a federal deferred prosecution agreement and the scrutiny of a federal monitor. (See our last post on UMDNJ here.)

The University has delayed up to $5 million worth of payments for telephone and communications services after improprieties in how these services had been arranged surfaced, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

And the Star-Ledger also reported new details of political contributions made by UMDNJ, despite state laws limiting the university's political involvement. One vivid anecdote involved a contribution allegedly made by the manager of the university's government affairs department to a congressman favored by the university's Washington lobbyists, which was later repaid to the manager by the university in cash.

Meanwhile, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has been trying to make over the leadership of UMDNJ. However, these efforts are not without their own pitfalls.

Corzine nominated three people to the Board of UMDNJ. Previously, several board members had stepped down after their conflicts of interest were revealed. Corzine's nominations included former NJ state Attorney General Robert Del Tufo, Oliver Quinn, the chief ethics officer of Prudential, and "former Princeton University president Harold Shapiro," according to the Newark Star-Ledger. Shapiro, however, may have potential conflicts of interests as well. The Ledger reported that he is on a director of Dow Chemical, a trustee of DeVry University, and is currently on the board of overseers of UMDNJ's Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Shapiro, however, is also currently a director of the Hospital Corporation of America, and, at least according to his HCA biography, a director of the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center (although I have not found information on the web to to confirm the latter post).

The Star-Ledger also reported that Corzine wants Bruce C. Vladeck, former head of the US Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) under the Clinton administration, to be Interim President of UMDNJ. However, the Star-Ledger also noted that Vladek's stewardship of HCFA was criticized by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which also raised concerns about his possible conflicts of interest. An article from the North Jersey Media Group reported that HCFA staff were unhappy with a settlement that Vladek ordered with the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, which was directed by a friend of his; and with one he pushed with the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, on whose board he previously served.

As I sometimes say to my patients, complicated problems that took a long time to develop may not be quick and easy to fix.

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