Friday, October 13, 2006

Another One Bites the Dust: Former Roger Williams Medical Center CEO Convicted

We have previously posted about the woes of a local Rhode Island hospital, Roger Williams Medical Center. The hospital's former CEO, Robert A Urciuoli, and a vice president, Frances P Driscoll, were accused of hiring a former state legislator to promote the hospital's political interests. The hospital agreed to a federal deferred prosecution agreement, admitting that the government had evidence of wrong-doing, and pledging reforms. The hospital's board fired Urciuoli and Driscoll. (See posts here and here.)

Urciuoli, Driscoll, and a leader of the hospital's assisted living center have been on trial in federal court in Providence. The verdict was just announced. I will quote relevant details from a Providence Journal story.
A federal jury today returned a mixed verdict in the Roger Williams Medical Center corruption trial that centered on whether hospital executives had abused the honest services of a former state senator -- who became the star witness against them.

After entering their seventh day of deliberations in U.S. District Court, jurors convicted former hospital president Robert A. Urciuoli of conspiracy and 35 of 36 counts of mail fraud. They cleared Peter J. Sangermano Jr., a partner in the hospital's assisted-living center, of the same 37 counts against him. The third defendant, Frances P. Driscoll, a former hospital vice president, was cleared of the conspiracy charge, but convicted of the one other count against her, mail fraud. A conviction for conspiracy carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Mail fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The defendants in January were named in a 38-count indictment, charging them with conspiracy and mail fraud. The indictment alleged that Urciuoli, Driscoll and Sangermano hired Celona as a consultant to The Village at Elmhurst, which was partially owned by the hospital, but that Celona's real work was using his public office to influence legislation and perform favors.

The indictment charged that one or more of the defendants directed Celona on various matters, from legislation to persuading municipalities to increase their ambulance runs to Roger Williams to pressuring health insurers with legislation before his Senate committee to increase their reimbursements to the hospital.

In 1998, the indictment charged, Driscoll and Sangermano directed Celona to work against a bill prohibiting health facilities, including the Village at Elmhurst, from offering care for Alzheimer's disease.

As chairman of the Corporations Committee, Celona had the power to advance or kill bills of importance to companies, including Blue Cross and United Healthcare, each of which were embroiled in a dispute with Roger Williams over insurance payments.
Urciuoli and Driscoll are thus new additions to the unhappy roster of health care organization leaders convicted of criminal misconduct in the course of their official duties. (Another relatively recent addition to this roster was the former CEO of Fletcher Allen Health Care, see post here.) Thus, they join the most extreme examples of abuse of power in health care. Yet, as I have said so often, even cases as egregious as these get little attention outside of their local geographic region. So physicians and other health professionals stuck under their demoralizing penumbra often believe that their misery is a local anomaly, not part of a larger pattern.

Hopefully, the litany of cases, big and small, of concentration and abuse of power on Health Care Renewal may persuade some physicians, other health professionals, policy researchers, and policy makers that there are systemic problems that must be addressed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Saturday's WSJ,10/14/06, front page article highlights the growing pressure being placed on Dr. William McGuire of UnitedHealth for backdating stock options. "At the end of 2005 his unexercised cache of stock options was valued at $1.78 billion..."

As a simple businessman this amount of money would seem to be at conflict with the mission of a health care organization.

Steve Lucas