Thursday, March 8, 2012
OFF ROADING… Lucky for Squid, saltwater is one of those healthy elixirs that can cure most ills. That keeps Squid out of hospitals, which is good because Squid is squeamish around needles. Also because Squid’s been waiting on the IRS for a big, fat tax return, and until the check arrives, medical bills would send this cephalopod’s extensive nervous system into a frenzy. Even for the state’s highest-paid hospital administrator, Sam Downing, who got a hefty $4 million payout when he left Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital last year, paying medical bills is tough. Downing gets his day in court March 19, when he’s looking to collect “recovery on bodily injury claims” for a car accident three years ago. He was in a car owned by BETA Healthcare Group, a joint powers authority that pools liability coverage for more than 100 healthcare providers.
BETA took the lead on the lawsuit, in which they’re asking for $25 grand, tops. Mere peanuts (or Band-Aids) for the $486 million behemoth. Too bad for the guy who hit them that healthcare professionals are suing him instead of, say, offering to comp his medical care: John Babcock was driving on Highway 68 near Canyon Del Rey on March 20, 2009, when he suffered a stroke and hit three cars, according to the complaint. Squid thinks it’s more than fair to pull a sympathy card here when Downing’s unspecified “bodily injury” was probably cheaper to cure than a stroke, and he had an entire hospital at his disposal.
Look for Downing’s name elsewhere this week on the Weekly’s website: The state Legislative Audit Committee’s report on the hospital’s financial workings goes live Thursday. Expect revelations on the hospital’s comfy-cozy relationship with Rabobank, which holds significant amounts of SVMH’s cash and whose regional vice president, Harry Wardwell, happens to be treasurer of the hospital board; and board members steering cash to their favorite causes, like the California International Air Show, whose founding director, Salinas businessman Jim Gattis, is also a SVMH board member.
Those are just a few of the things Assemblyman Luis Alejo asked the committee to examine in his audit request letter last April, a request that had the hospital spending about $25,000 on a lobbyist to try to prevent it from happening. Alejo tells Squid he hasn’t yet seen the audit, but expects to receive a full briefing on it Thursday morning. At Memorial, meanwhile, there are two copies of it: one in the hands of hospital counsel, and the other in interim CEO Lowell Johnson’s office, where it’s been viewed by board members and hospital public information officer Adrienne Laurent. Alejo plans to hold a public meeting in Salinas in a few weeks to discuss the findings. “Regardless of what the audit says, it’s already resulted in significant changes,” Alejo says. To which Squid replies, “Amen.”