Tag Archives: new jersey

Nonprofit hospital CEO earns $5 mil in severance

Writing for The (Bergen County) Record and NorthJersey.com, Lindy Washburn used recent tax filings to discover millions in severance pay given to the executives of Hackensack University Medical Center, an area nonprofit hospital. The kicker? The top executives got this money while being forced out, in part because the hospital board had been shocked to discover just how much they’d been paying the execs.

The compensation packages came in a year in which tax filings show the 775-bed medical center employed 317 fewer staff and Moody’s Investors Service downgraded its credit rating to Baa1, leading to higher interest payments when new debt is issued. Two law firms also recommended a top-to-bottom overhaul of governance, including compensation practices, after the federal conviction of a state senator who was a paid consultant to the hospital.

Beyond the headline, Washburn used the tax filings to detail national comparisons, a debate on nonprofit status and data on all sorts of compensation at the hospital.

AHCJ articles and tip sheets

N.J. taxpayers pay tab on illegal steroids

Without further ado, here are links to the three parts of the enormous (both in length and import) “Strong at Any Cost” series by The Star-Ledger‘s Amy Brittain and Mark Mueller. The headlines alone tell much of the story.

The duo’s work centered upon now-deceased New Jersey doctor Joseph Calao. For good reason:

A seven-month Star-Ledger investigation drawing on prescription records, court documents and detailed interviews with the physician’s employees shows Colao ran a thriving illegal drug enterprise that supplied anabolic steroids and human growth hormone to hundreds of law enforcement officers and firefighters throughout New Jersey.

From a seemingly above-board practice in Jersey City, Colao frequently broke the law and his own oath by faking medical diagnoses to justify his prescriptions for the drugs, the investigation shows.

In just over a year, records show, at least 248 officers and firefighters from 53 agencies used Colao’s fraudulent practice to obtain muscle-building drugs, some of which have been linked to increased aggression, confusion and reckless behavior.

Six of them were later the subject of lawsuits “alleging excessive force or civil rights violations” that occurred around when they’d have been taking the drugs. Others were arrested for off-duty issues. For more on Colao’s medical excuses and his conflict-ridden relationship with the pharmacy that supplied his patients, be sure to read deeper in Brittain and Mueller’s meaty story.

Other must-reads are the “Warnings Ignored” subheading, which demonstrates the national scope of steroid abuse in the law enforcement community, and “About This Series,” in which the reporters explain how they conducted their investigation.

Columnist blogs about her breast cancer

NJ.com columnist Kathleen O’Brien has been blogging her breast cancer treatment experience from the beginning.

O’Brien’s posts address a mixture of big-picture issues (like avoiding a negative perspective and whether or not to participate in a clinical trial) and illuminating little anecdotes that show the subtle changes in daily life that accompany a cancer diagnosis and impending treatment (like saying goodbye to the hairdresser she won’t need now that she’s going to start chemotherapy). Her writing helps the reader gain a better understanding of the emotional and physical roller coaster upon which cancer patients are trapped.

N.J. psychiatric hospital botches drugs, doses

Jean Mikle of the Asbury Park Press chronicled medication errors at Ancora Psychiatric Hospital, New Jersey’s largest such institution. Mikle pored over public records and found that while hospital officials say they are safer than average, “overdoses, adverse reactions to medicines, and wrong doses of powerful drugs have harmed dozens of patients at Ancora since 2006.”

Since December, two Ancora patients have been hospitalized because of “reactions to medications” they received inside the psychiatric hospital, according to Ellen Lovejoy, the spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services.

Brick resident Derrick Raymond, 28, who has been a patient at Ancora several times since 2002, said he could easily have been given the wrong medication because, he said, patient files were frequently in disarray.

“I’ve had my files mixed with other people’s,” Raymond said. “I could have been given the wrong medication. You start to feel like a guinea pig for medications in there.”

Mikle found cases where patients were given the wrong medication, the wrong amount of medication, no medication when some was needed, expired medication and medication intended for other patients.

N.J. law would publicize detailed hospital error info

In an Associated Press story, Eli Segall looked at proposed legislation in New Jersey that would require hospitals to publish error information and would prevent hospitals from billing patients or insurers for procedures during which mistakes were made.

While current New Jersey law calls for the publication of statewide statistics for preventable mistakes, the proposed legislation would take it a step farther and require data to be shared for individual hospitals. Reports for 2005 and 2006 have been published under the current law; 826 mistakes – 40 percent of which were patient falls – were reported statewide.

According to one of Segall’s sources, patients were only billed for mistaken procedures in isolated cases under existing laws and that in many cases hospitals don’t bill anybody when egregious mistakes have been made and insurers may refuse payment when mistakes have been made.