Barnwell hospital sale prompts court action

Friday, Dec. 30, 2011 4:22 AM
Last updated 4:24 AM
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BARNWELL, S.C. -- A lawsuit filed Dec. 20 in Barnwell County names Barnwell County Council members as defendants. The suit was filed by nine people, some of whom are former Barnwell County Hospital board members. 
County Council members, Freddie Houston, David Kenner, Keith Sloan, Lowell Jowers Sr., Joe Smith, Harold Buckmon and Travis Black are now required to answer the complaint which charges that they breached their fiduciary duty by:

  • Paying the Williston Rescue Squad "excessive amounts" of $830,000 per year - including $149,000 per year to the director of the rescue squad - while reducing the millage rate to the hospital to 12 mills.
  •  While acting as County Council, refused to approve a 4 percent interest loan to the hospital from the USDA which was need to pay Medicare and Medicaid.
  • And "Financially crippled" and "forced" the hospital into bankruptcy.

The complaint also asks for the resolution passed by county council members to sell the hosptial be declared "illegal, unconstitutional and without force of law in that it violates the prohibition against dual office holding."

The complaint lists two resolutions the hospital board approved - one authorizing the sale of the hospital's assets and one authorizing the hospital to file a Chapter 9 bankruptcy petition.
The plantiffs in the suit are named as Don Alexander, Carolyne Williams, Georgia F. Fields, William R. "Bob" Dixon, Colonel Joe H. Zorn, Jr., Melanie Wright, Dr. M.O. Khan, Shirley Elmore and Janice Livingston.
Alexander, Williams and Khan are former hospital board members. Alexander and Williams were ousted when Barnwell County Council members voted to replace the current hospital board members with themselves, April 26. 

Dr. M.O. Khan, who was appointed by the medical staff of the hospital, resigned from the board earlier this year. He is listed as a "citizen" in the suit instead of a professional status.
The other plaintiffs are listed as residents of Barnwell County.
The suit was filed iin the Court of Common Pleas for the Second Judicial Circuit. A Columbia law firm is representing the plaintiffs.

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Riverman1
84972
Points
Riverman1 12/30/11 - 05:51 am
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I've written before about the

I've written before about the money other hospitals around here make. Hospital finances should be examined closely. I know one hospital in a very poor county that's properly run and turns over $20 million a year to the county from profits.

In this case it appears the head of the Rescue Squad was certainly making a hefty salary. Heck, I thought that would be a volunteer position. Naive me thinking anyone does the right thing these days whether it's hospitals or charities.

curly123053
4754
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curly123053 12/30/11 - 09:07 am
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Having spent 4 or 5 yrs doing

Having spent 4 or 5 yrs doing EMS in Barnwell County when Rural-Metro had the 9-1-1 contract, I can honestly say that the EMS services have greatly improved since Williston Rescue was awarded the 9-1-1 contract for the county. If what this suit is saying is true, there has been some major mistrust of funds starting with the Barnwell County Council. The charges claiming the Barnwell County Council appointing themselves as the hospital board on April 26th does appear to be a grave injustice if this turns out to be true. Anybody with a little knowledge of SC laws knows that SC state laws prohibit dual office holders. Each one of the Barnwell County Council members should be removed from office via a recall if this turns out to be true. It seems to me that SLED needs to come into Barnwell County and do some investigations into possible corruptness of public officials.

Craig Spinks
817
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Craig Spinks 12/31/11 - 04:52 am
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RM1, Where are the

RM1,

Where are the out-of-state, forensic auditors when we need them?

Do any citizens in our SMSA besides Mr. Lockett in A-RC have the guts to call for forensic audits of problematic aspects of every local government's operations?

Riverman1
84972
Points
Riverman1 12/31/11 - 07:42 am
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Dr. Spinks, thanks for

Dr. Spinks, thanks for commenting. It's really difficult when you take on institutions that you have always been led to believe were altruistic with people running them who are expert at making you feel warm and fuzzy. University Hospital should be audited and scrutinized in depth because it is publicly owned and our money we are talking about regardless of the subterfuge of the foundation.

Certain charities I've pointed out should also be examined, but the psychological pressure to avoid these unpleasant scrutinizations of things and people we admire and respect affects the media as it does most of us.

bgkrider
0
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bgkrider 01/01/12 - 12:29 pm
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I have been in hospital

I have been in hospital consulting for more than 25 years and have taken stock of the comments but I have seen no comments from anyone about trying to save the hospital for the community. There are "hospital turnaround" specialists that do this all the time. Beyond that when city councils or county boards are making decisions about hospitals, they are almost always done so without appropriate understanding and true options. If the hospital boards are not properly informed, they do no better. But the point is a community is going to lose its' hospital and the discussions should be around saving it and the jobs in the community. As for expenditures, these can usually be avoided by an educated finance committee of the board reviewing finances monthly, asking the right questions and in touch with the hospital budget. Observing fiduciary responsibilities of the board and fiduciary responsibilities of the city council (including the responsibility to make informed and educated decisions) can avoid those problems. If nothing else find a for-profit hospital operator lease the hospital from the city and let them pay the city a lease fee which would result in a positive cash flow for the city and keep the jobs and the hospital. That may not be the best of all solutions but it is better than throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Riverman1
84972
Points
Riverman1 01/01/12 - 01:10 pm
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BgKrider does bring up an

BgKrider does bring up an interesting point. The successful hospital in the poor county I've been talking about that is able to turn over $20 million to the county in profits has an administrator who keeps his independence from the medical staff. That's really the issue, start shifting mega profits the private physican groups are making back to the hospital and county that owns it. In the case of Barnwell, it appears it's not only the physicians are pocketing the money.

A strong, independent administrator who works on a percentage of the profits would turn University Hospital into a money making entity for the county. There was a reason the county hospital I'm referring to was offered $100 million buyout by a private company. There is money being made. Wise up, folks.

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