Monday, April 24, 2006

More About UMDNJ Leaders Feathering Their Own Nests

Has it really been almost three weeks since we posted about the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)? UMDNJ now is operating under a federal deferred prosecution agreement with the supervision of a federal monitor (see most recent posts here and here.) We had previously discussed allegations that UMDNJ had offered no-bid contracts, at times requiring no work, to the politically connected; had paid for lobbyists and made political contributions, even though UMDNJ is a state institution; and seemed to be run by political bosses rather than health care professionals. (See post here, with links to previous posts.)

There are yet more revelations about how UMDNJ leaders feathered their own nests.

Some concern one New Jersey State Senator Wayne R Bryant (Democrat - Camden County). According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, "in 2003, the college's School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford created a program-support coordinator job for Bryant. Investigators are looking into allegations that Bryant improperly used his position as Chairman of the Senate's budget committee to direct millions in state funds to the school." Furthermore, "legislative sources say that as the state budget was finalized last June, Bryant steered a last-minute $2.7 million to the Stratford school for debt service. In addition, Bryant also paved the way to increase a state allocation to UMDNJ's Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Camden, for a total of $7.8 million, as well as a $5 million appropriation for the Newark campus' Neurosciences Institute...."

Others arise out of more findings by the federal monitor who is now overseeing UMDNJ. According to the indefatigable Newark Star-Ledger, the monitor's latest report has more about Dr R Michael Gallagher, the former Dean of the School of Osteopathic Medicine (mentioned above). "Investigators concluded that the osteopathic school near Camden systematically falsified profit and loss statements - at Gallagher's direction - to show the headache center [which Gallagher ran] was making money, thus making Gallagher, whose salary is $381,854, eligible for the annual bonus." Also, the investigators reported that Gallagher "submitted travel expenses to the university for reimbursement that had already been picked up by drug companies." The report also included a variety of lavish expenses for which Gallagher was reimbursed by UMDNJ, such as an expensive leather computer case for his wife, a night at the Waldorf for Gallagher and his wife, and the now familiar meals at exepnsive restaurants and country clubs.

Also according to the Star-Ledger, the monitor alleged UMDNJ Trustee Donald Bradley, who is also Newark City Council President, pushed UMDNJ to "further his political activities." He persuaded UMDNJ to underwrite a gala affair entitled "Keep the Dream Alive." It cost over $22,000, including $2550 for a martini bar and ice sculptures. "The event apparently violated state policy, which prohibits publicly funded institutions from holding receptions honoring any state employee - which would have included the UMDNJ staffers who were celebrated at the event - or expenses for alcoholic beverages...." Bradly also applied pressure to secure jobs for favored people at UMDNJ. "Bradley would often personally accompany people he recommended for jobs on interviews. Among those were his daughter-in-law, who was hired and subsequently fired." Finally, the monitor questioned "whether Bradley forced UMDNJ to sublet medical office space it leases at 194 Clinton Avenue in Newark to Chandrakant Patel, a physician and contributor to Bradley who operated Universal Industrial Clinic until he lost his medical license." "Top [UMDNJ] administrators were told they should provide physicians and medical imaging equipment to enable Patel to establish a federally qualified health clinic at the site. According to the report, the city council president told one that if she assisted in the effort, he could make 'go away' a separate city lawsuit against UMDNJ...." "UMDNJ has never tried to collect $75,000 in real estate taxes Patel was obligated to pay under the token lease...." The University was never even paid its symbolic lease payment. "It is owed $3 by Patel."

UMDNJ has unfortunately become a prime example of how the leadership can bring a once respected health care organization low by putting their own interests ahead of the institution's mission. At least we can hope that the ongoing clean-up will provide a model for how to clean up other errant health care organizations. Once again, my sympathy is with the dedicated UMDNJ staff who have tried to soldier on through all of this, and of course with the patients who still need to go to UMDNJ for their health care.

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