Management practices at El Centro Regional Medical Center have come under fire in an anonymous letter recently forwarded to the hospital’s board of directors, other city officials and the Imperial Valley Press with “unethical or unlawful conduct” alleged.
The letter, crafted by self-described “concerned ECRMC employees,” is the latest of a number of controversies involving the city-owned hospital.
x-rays. Moreover, the hospital was recently crippled by an impasse with its former pediatrics physicians’ group that forced a bypass of pediatric and obstetric services to cease for about a week at the emergency room.
However, hospital officials believe the letter most likely isn’t even from a hospital employee and is simply a personal attack.
“If you read this, then you can take it’s directed at one person,” ECRMC Director of Development Cathy Kennerson said.
“I’m embarrassed for whoever wrote it,” ECRMC spokeswoman Kathleen Pipkin added.
It came from a gmail.com account with several attached documents, some of which contain private patient information, and Pipkin and Kennerson agreed that is what they find most troubling.
They have forwarded the letter to the El Centro Police Department, and the origin of the letter is being investigated with criminal charges anticipated to be filed in relation to HIPAA privacy violations.
The access to the hospital computer with the information has been shut down, they said, and the violation will also be reported to the state as customary.
“This is very concerning,” Pipkin said. “This is very demoralizing.”
The letter author, or authors, felt compelled to bring the issues up as required by ECRMC’s Code of Conduct which requires employees to spotlight conduct or actions “that is leading to the downfall of the organization.”
The aforementioned controversies listed in the letter are used as reasons “to believe that certain conduct on the part of certain chiefs of the organization may be in violation of the (ECRMC) code,” specifying Chief Executive Officer David Green, Chief Operating Officer Tomas Virgen and Chief Human Resources Officer Brent Neilson.
But the letter not only notes the radiology incident and the impasse, it also indicates there are more than $7 million in unbilled accounts and alleges “a lack of accountability within the organization to hold the physicians accountable to not only the bylaws but federal regulations as well.”
“One physician was allowed to resign and was not instructed to finish his records costing the organization over $1 million,” the letter reads.
Kennerson and Pipkin didn’t refute any facts in the letter, just the context, and said the noted incidents and facts are not indicative of how the hospital is run.
“Most of the stuff is history,” Kennerson said. “I think our doctors do an extremely good job in taking care of patients and I’m proud of our health care.”
Pipkin said majority of the stolen x-rays have been recovered and that the pediatric impasse was a negotiation issue that has not only been resolved but ended with an improved situation as five new doctors are coming in.
“In some ways it’s been a positive thing to reach out,” she said. “It’s going to be a real plus to the community because it’s so underserved by primary care doctors.”
The hospital representatives said the letter’s author or authors are “misinformed” in alleging that administration didn’t having an action plan in place during the pediatric impasse, explaining that the hospital had three action plans in place that all happened to fall through.
Kennerson said the $7 million in unbilled accounts is merely a “snapshot in time” from 2011, and any given time there’s unbilled accounts with this amount not unusual.
The pair steadfastly stood by Virgen, describing him as “nothing but professional and a very conscientious person,” Pipkin said. She added that Green has been in the position for eight years and displayed ample leadership during that time.
The hospital board was notified about the letter Thursday.
El Centro City Councilman Efrain Silva is one of the council’s liaisons to the hospital.
“I think that we’ve had a number of issues occur in the last few months, but we continue to have confidence in the staff that the issues will be solved and the matters will be addressed in a way that they don’t continue to happen,” Silva said. “We’re going to allow the hospital to conduct its investigation, and I will be informing the council at the next council meeting.
Read the letter online at www.ivpressonline.com.
Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.