Top 20 stories of 2012 #3
In May, it was revealed Louis Kraml, administrator of Bingham Memorial Hospital, and Dan Cochran, an associate and friend of Kraml's, had formed a coding, billing company called International Consulting Services (ICS), LLC.
A contract was proposed between ICS and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation (CHC) in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory.
At that time, Kraml's contract with BMH did not prevent him from outside contracts such as the one in Saipan. Now he must consult with board members before making outside contracts.
This was the springboard to people reporting some of the practices at Bingham Memorial Hospital.
Lee Hammett, who is chair of the county's Planning & Zoning Commission, acted as the "collector of information" for people coming forward with specific information regarding indiscretions and improprieties at BMH.
In June, two accusations against BMH that received the most coverage was that an employee allegedly sold hospital computer equipment and kept the money. The other is that personnel at the hospital were told to keep medication in their personal vehicles because it could not be properly secured prior to an inspection, according to the report.
That same month, Bingham Memorial filed a tort claim against two people, Bingham County Commissioner Ladd Carter and Hammett, claiming Carter and Hammett conspired with the media to oust six hospital administrators and certain board members.
The hospital's tort said the investigation caused negative publicity, resulting in the loss of at least $250,000 in revenue from "the loss of patients, disruption of activities and the need to hire attorneys."
By mid-June, Bingham County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Andrew asked the Idaho Attorney General (AG) to take over a criminal investigation of BMH.
Andrew said he was in a complicated spot as he tried to act as a criminal prosecutor in a heightening feud between Bingham County officials and the hospital. He said the possibility of an ethical conflict appeared to be likely.
Andrew said it was that the hospital's tort that caused him to request help from the AG.
The Attorney General accepted this request. This is still an active, on-going investigation. No report has yet been filed nor has one been released.
Come September, attorneys hired by BMH reported their internal review of the allegations raised by the press during the months of May and June 2012.
Seven basic allegations were investigated. These are:
° outdated medications and supplies
° billing for Saipan Hospital
° purchase and sale of equipment by Cyberdine
° telephone monitoring
° Medicare Secondary Payer Forms
° length of stay
° conflict of interest
"It was more of an historical exercise," said attorney Walter Bithell of Holland & Hart in Boise. "Almost everything we looked at was something from the past year or two."
The possible criminal activity uncovered were phone conversations that were recorded of one BMH doctor, his nurse and receptionist.
The phone conversations were recorded for 10 days to two weeks and ended July 6, 2010, said Bithell. It has not happened since that time.
The administration said no one was authorized to do this.
No one was able to produce the recordings and no one interviewed knew the content of the recordings, Bithell said.
Bithell would not call this wire tapping but said it was "listening."
"It shouldn't have happened," he said.
By November, BMH had filed a suit to compel the release of public records from Hammett and other county agencies and county officials.
"Bingham County did release a number of emails from County Commissioner Ladd Carter and others in response to the public records request," said Erik Stidham, a partner of Holland & Hart LLP from Boise. This law firm represents BMH.
The Hospital believes that the county and Hammett are not properly withholding the information and seeks a judicial resolution to the impasse.
Hammett said, "When I determined that the material might be criminal behavior, I immediately gave it to the police department and [Blackfoot Police Chief] Dave Moore."
"This has never been an issue with the hospital but with the board," said Commissioner Carter. "They would not listen to allegations.
"The communication that came to the commissioners' office, including emails, were part of the public record and were turned over," Carter said. "No emails were authored by the commissioners.
"They came to the office, were read by the commissioners and were not forwarded," said Carter.