Originally created 04/23/98

Medical facility may lose federal cash



CLEARWATER -- The Margaret J. Weston Center stands to lose its federal funding unless it meets a series of deadlines set by the primary care branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The deadlines are documented in the report resulting from a full program review of the rural health clinic in March by a team headed by Wallace Copeland, project officer in the agency's Atlanta Office. The medical program in general gets high marks, but Mr. Copeland noted that the center needs "a strong medical director who will work closely with the executive director in a team effort to address the many issues the ... center face(s)."

Currently, the facility is without a medical director, with only one full-time physician, Dr. Andrea Bruce, and part-time work by Dr. Clarence Flanigan, who resigned as medical director in March.

The center's financial procedures, or lack of them, received the most scathing criticism, with the blame placed squarely on the board of directors.

"There is no part of the finance department which is currently being well-managed and no appropriate infrastructure has been developed," the report stated.

A search is under way for financial and medical directors, interim director Michelle Marrs said, but the district office wants them in place by the first of July.

After the new financial director is hired, primary care officials will perform a follow-up review of all aspects of the financial system.

The report criticizes the board of directors for "an inability to govern." It accuses the board, headed at the time of the full program review by Elaine van der Linden, of failure to monitor the rural health center's finances and of meddling in day-to-day operations. Mrs. van der Linden succeeded Timothy Key in January, and the board is now headed by Lauminnia Nivens.

"Several members of the board have, for over a year, regularly interfered in the daily conduct of the (center) and have subordinated the overall interests of the Corporation in favor of attempting to use (it) for their own personal interests," the report charged, adding that there was "little interest on the part of the majority of the Board in stopping this behavior."

The report suggests that board members with a tenure longer than 90 days resign "to allow others in the community to organize a new Board which will take responsibility for governing the corporation in a businesslike manner and in compliance with local, state and federal laws and regulations."

By May 15, the center must submit a current purchasing policies and procedures manual to the Atlanta office and documentation that a majority of the board are patients at the center. In June, the board must send Atlanta a fixed asset policy, an inventory control manual, and a current travel policies and procedures document.