June 3, 2016 – Politico Florida
by Christine Sexton
The chairman of the board that oversees Broward Health is criticizing the system’s refusal to provide documents to a watchdog group hired to ensure that the hospital district is complying with a settlement agreement for health care fraud.
Rocky Rodriguez, the board chairman, told POLITICO Florida that he wants the system to give the review team access to information it requested in a letter. J Scott Newton, a former federal prosecutor who is leading the review team, says chief compliance officer Donna Lewis is refusing to provide him access.
“I don’t know how much they have given him,” Rodriguez said, adding “I think we should be complying with the [watchdog] 100 percent.”
Rodriguez tried to have the board of commissioners discuss the issue at its last board meeting but Newton’s request for documents was not on the agenda. When he attempted to have the issue added to the agenda he couldn’t muster enough support from the other commissioners.
Former Broward Health chief executive officer Alan Levine said the board of commissioners is “playing with fire” by withholding the documents that Newton has requested.
Broward Health, which is officially known as the North Broward Hospital District, has been under scrutiny over the last few months since its CEO committed suicide. In the aftermath, outside officials have ramped up scrutiny of its contracts and operations.
An independent review organization (IRO) was put in place to keep tabs on Broward Health after the district paid nearly $70 million to settle allegations of Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
Newton asked Lewis to provide documents — including internal and external reviews of the compliance department — as well as other records but has not been able to get the documents, according to a letter he sent to Rodriguez and hospital CEO Pauline Grant.
“If I were sitting on that board, the only thing I would be saying is, ‘People, if the IRO is requesting info, it’s not a matter of whether they get it, it’s a matter of how quickly we turn it around to them,’’’ Levine said.
Newton was at the district’s corporate offices this week reviewing documents and interviewing district staff. So were attorneys from the Department of Health and Human Services office of the inspector general, including attorney Laura Ellis, who serves as the monitor.
While a spokesman for the inspector general, Donald White, said site visits are “routine,” they rarely occur within the first year of a a settlement taking effect.
“I’m not aware of a single circumstance where it has happened,” Levine said when asked about the monitor’s presence at Broward Health’s corporate offices this week.
The tussle over the requested documents has been playing out in the press and started when the online news organization, the Broward Bulldog, published an anonymous letter suggesting that Newton, who works for the Baker, Donelson, Bearman Valdwell & Berkowitz in Jackson, Mississippi, was not qualified.
Levine called the accusation “laughable.” [READ MORE]