Friday, August 01, 2008

Another "Rising Star" Health Care Executive Implodes

Add this to our series of failed health care leaders, from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel,

A top Memorial Regional Hospital administrator caught up in a fraud investigation in the Virgin Islands resigned this week after admitting he spent time in a military prison and lied about it.

Rodney E. Miller, 36, who came to the Hollywood hospital less than a year ago as chief operating officer and a rising star, never disclosed he spent time in a Navy brig on theft charges, Frank Sacco, chief executive of the South Broward Hospital District, said Thursday. Sacco said when he confronted the man he hoped would one day succeed him, Miller admitted his lie and quit the $370,000 job on the spot Tuesday.

Details of Miller's past emerged in a series of stories published this week by the Virgin Islands Daily News that outlined widespread alleged financial abuses by Miller and others at Schneider Regional Medical Center in the Virgin Islands. The newspaper, and an audit by the U.S. Inspector General's Office, found that more than $1 million was improperly diverted to Miller's personal accounts between 2002 and 2007. Also, he received $3.8 million in salary over several years while patients went without basic needs for a lack of money, the newspaper reported.

But it was Miller's failure to disclose a "bad conduct" discharge from the Navy that led to his departure from Memorial Regional, Sacco said. Miller stole another serviceman's credit cards in 1995 and went on a spending spree, then concocted an elaborate scheme to cover his tracks, the Daily News reported. He left the service in 1996 and his discharge, after appeals, became official in 2000.

The information, including terms of his 10-month prison sentence and allegations that he submitted fraudulent documents to investigators, came from Miller's service records, which are public under federal law. No one from Memorial Regional or an independent search firm ever verified Miller's service, Sacco said.

Miller served as Schneider's chief executive officer for five years before accepting the job as head of the adult hospital at Memorial Regional in October. The inspector general's report was finished two weeks before Miller was hired in Broward, but not released until Monday.

The audit, conducted jointly by the Inspectors General of the Virgin Islands and the U.S. Interior Department, details an "alarming depth of mismanagement" at the hospital by Miller, his top executives and the board charged with overseeing their operations. Miller received more than $1.3 million above his contracted pay scale.

Investigators were met with "secrecy and a deliberate concealment of financial records"
that forced them to seek subpoenas, according to the audit.

In a story in the Miami Herald, CEO Sacco was quoted, "we thought we had a rising star."

Not exactly.

I argued in a somewhat different context for developing a licensure process for leaders of health care organizations. Licensing doctors and health professionals has been going on for a long time. But now leaders of health care organizations, from hospitals to drug companies, have as much if not more influence over health care, and hence the health and safety of patients as do doctors. Yet there are no requirements that leaders of health care organizations have any particular educational background, knowledge, commitment to health care values, or, for that matter, that they have not committed crimes. Given the scope of bad leadership discussed on Health Care Renewal, maybe a licensing process for health care executives would at least ensure that they have not served time in the brig for theft.

ADDENDUM (5 August, 2008) - See related post entitled "Should More Hospital CEOs be Physicians?" by Maggie Mahar on the Health Beat Blog.


InformaticsMD said...
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InformaticsMD said...

This reminds me of another South Florida hospital's past experiences with executives, Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, in the post "Miami Beach Hospital gets an "F" on Informatics" and the puerile reader comment received, possibly written by someone at that facility.