Hospital takes heat for expensive consultant

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 10:30 AM
Last updated 1:04 PM
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ATLANTA — The cash-strapped Grady Memorial Hospital spent nearly $800,000 dollars over nearly two years flying in a New England-based consultant to run its patient revenue department.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Cheri Kane has been paid a total of $785,841 in fees and expenses from Grady since July 2007. Records the newspaper obtained show that last year, the hospital paid her $378,400 in fees and $54,884 in expenses, for a total of $433,284.

Kane's title is interim vice president for revenue cycle, and she is in charge of some 500 employees. Hospital officials say Kane's work boosts revenue.

Grady CEO Michael Young said Kane refocused a hospital in a financial and managerial crisis. She helped maximize hospital revenue by, among other things, better tracking patients' ability to pay. That has included better credit checks, analysis of assets, and reviews of insurance coverage, according to hospital officials.

Yet longtime Atlanta health care consultant Michael Rovinsky said it seems strange to pay a consultant such high fees for so long. The hospital is deep in debt and losing money.

Consultants are usually brought in for months, not years.

"That's a lot of money," Rovinsky said. "It's hard to imagine they couldn't find a qualified individual locally."

Kane, 50, was hired in July 2007 for six months by former hospital CEO Otis Story. The hospital continued to employ and pay her for about 11 months after that contract expired.

Young, who took the post last September, renewed her contract until June of this year.

Young said her contract will not be renewed again.

Local and state leaders have been working for months to dig Grady out of a financial crisis. Last year the hospital was threatening to shut its doors, citing a $55 million deficit.

Grady's mission as a safety net hospital that serves mostly poor patients who cannot pay for their treatment has left it financially hobbled for decades. Founded in 1892, Grady is the city's only public hospital.

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