Sunday, July 20, 2014

Randolph Hospital Is The Biggest "Non-Profit" In Randolph County, North Carolina . . . And The Courier Tribune Must Protect It . . . At All Costs (Subtitled: What Does A Million Healthcare Dollars Buy In Asheboro?)

I've not blogged regularly since early 2013 - having moved my online activities over to Facebook . . . and, until fairly recently, curbed the time I spent there.  I have enjoyed the time away from blogging, and have only put something up when the stars aligned and begged for commentary.

Over the next week or so, I'm going to put up at least three posts*. . . all inspired by what passes for newspaper "coverage" of local healthcare these days.

(*I never got around to it.)

It's only gotten worse since I began blogging in 2005.  The world prefers "sound bites" (except when legislators are writing healthcare "reform" - then it's a 2000 page pile-of-paper-only-good-for-sitting-on), and unfortunately, this really BITES for the American public, as these snippets of incomplete (and often inaccurate) information are what guides public opinion . . . and national policy.

This first post was inspired by a Courier Tribune article, written by Chip Womick, published online on July 12.  It was a pure public-relations "fluff" piece . . . extolling (in unusual detail for Mr. Womick/this newspaper) the virtues of the hospital's charitable "mission" as a "non-profit".

But I believe there was an underlying purpose to Chip's article, and that purpose was to to plant the seed that all is not financially well with Randolph . . .  and to gently begin preparing the largely-kept-in-the-dark local populace for a buy-out by a bigger system (at this point, not being privy to the plots-and-schemes of Randolph's Macheavellian CEO, Steve Eblin, and as much as I would like it to be Baptist, I would predict UNC, CMC/Cone or Duke).

Click HERE for a link to the article (which is now hard to find through the Courier's home page unless you are specifically looking for it - we'll get to why I think that is as this post moves forward).

Suffice it to say that Randolph Hospital is Randolph County's biggest "non-profit" entity ("by a country mile") . . . classified as a  501 (c)(3) with the IRS.  It is one of the county's biggest employers . . . and without-much-doubt, the Courier Tribune's biggest advertiser.

And/so, when Steve Eblin's public-relations minions say, "Jump!", the Courier asks, "How high?".  It's been that way for years.

The best interests of the "non-profit", charged with the public good, must be protected.

A lot of the information Mr. Womick alluded to in his article (and more importantly, some that he didn't) can be found at a website called Guidestar.

One of the most important things to be found at Guidestar is a compilation of Randolph Hospital's last three IRS 990 tax returns - which are, BY LAW, public record (if you register with the site, and pay a membership fee, you can go back even further).  IRS code, is, in fact, very clear that any time a member of the public wants to see a "non-profit's" financials/returns, they MUST be provided in a TIMELY fashion.

Those returns include a list of officers (including how they are compensated), Board members and most highly-paid employees.

This information is NOT "highly confidential" in ANY sense of the word, or in ANY venue.

This point, is, of course, the REASON I came to the blogosphere (at the invitation of local "journalists") to ask for help in 2005.  And it's THE point that (over a period of many years) was TOTALLY LOST on Randolph Hospital's oh-so-ethical board members (which included some of Asheboro's "righest" names and most prominent physicians), the hospital's attorneys, my own attorney, our noble law-enforcing District Attorney (Garland Yates), the IRS/U.S. Attorney's office, our state Attorney General (Roy Cooper), a veritable host of liberal/progressive bloggers, and ultimately, Judge Stuart Albright in 2013.

I have learned, the very hard way, that laws are not worth the paper they're printed on unless they are enforced.  And, in our fair town, some people are just more worthy of justice than others.

Much more often than not, the law will not be enforced if a "non-profit" hospital is in the cross-hairs.

And that's because the best interests of the "non-profit", charged with the public good, have to be protected.

But I've gotten a little ahead of myself.  Most folks who follow this blog know my story, but I think it's a good idea to provide a little background/summary for those who, for whatever reason, have landed here for the first time.

In 1995, back in the heady days of "Hillary's Village", after my Mother took a call from my childhood doctor, Jim Kinlaw (the guy who took up my medical care AFTER Dr. Wilhoit botched my tonsillectomy/mutilated my throat), I was recruited home to Asheboro as Randolph Medical Associate's first Pediatrician.  And I was given the charge to "clean up" Pediatrics at Randolph.  Then-hospital VP/RMA President, Steve Eblin, promised me he would have my back.  I was a "valued employee" - and a clinical "partner" in the important business of providing excellent Pediatric care to the children of Asheboro.

I worked like a dog . . . totally "old school".  In addition to my office duty, I took 24/7 back-up call for EVERYBODY - if anyone had a problem in that nursery/on that floor, and was in town, I would come in and help.  I poured myself into child abuse cases.  I was the Chair of the Perinatal Committee.  I served on the county's Child Fatality Task Force.

The practice was my life - what I truly thought I was born/destined to do.

Of course, in order to clean up anything in a North Carolina mill town, one is going to step on egos, turf and toes.  A woman stepping on mill town toes is often portrayed as "difficult" (or far worse) by the good-ole-boys whose toes get bruised.

I even took on Chip Womick's wife, Sharon, after she published a simply idiotic treatise on the "dangers" (long debunked) of childhood immunizations in a Ramseur "newspaper"-now-long-since-dead.  I wrote a letter-to-the-Editor of the paper (assuming it had one) taking her "argument" apart, and questioning why a responsible publication in the modern world would publish that kind of mis-information.  It put the health and lives of children at risk.

I expect Sharon's husband didn't like that . . . or have much use for me afterwards.  It most certainly colored his view . . . and his coverage of . . . my story.

When one speaks truth to power - or even just truth to anybody - on a regular basis - one can find themselves on the wrong end of ugly labels that the businessmen-of-medicine (so absorbed with image and market share) use as tools to minimize the sting of said truth - and marginalize whoever is speaking it.

In medicine, the term they've liked to use is "disruptive".  It is a word that hides a host of ills . . . and has destroyed more-than-a-few good doctor's careers.

There is no doubt that I did earn the title.  To Steve Eblin's great chagrin, I didn't care about politics or who-was-who (in other words, "right people" were no better than anyone else - and were not due special treatment or favors).  I saw the patient-in-front-of-me, and I expected the "non-profit" to do its best by that patient . . . and for community ancillary services to support that mission.  I'm not ever going to apologize for doing my best to provide what the public was paying for.

Three years after starting the Pediatric practice from nothing . . . and pouring literally everything I had into the endeavor . . . and despite a signed/sealed contract with the National Health Service Corps (which had repaid my medical school loans for service) that specifically stated my continued practice in Asheboro could not be interfered with in any way . . . I was fired . . . "without cause" (aka a "voluntary" termination).

"Without cause" means that the "non-profit" hospital did not have a good, legally-defensible reason to fire me. Alas, in our "right-to-work" state, hospitals-of-all-kinds can do this to doctors . . . and they can act without discussion or negotiation or warning. Over the years (since Steve Eblin did it to me), hospitals have refined their technique to an art form.  One day you have a life and a practice, and the next day you don't.  You are suddenly cut off from colleagues/friends you've worked with for years (who are generally terrified to say/do anything lest the same thing happen to them), and treated as a criminal (escorted off the premises/your belongings on site packed up by people you don't know).  You have no right to a fair hearing and no recourse (while your hospital privileges, a protected property right, remain untouched - at least until your malpractice insurance runs out).  There is no chance to say good-bye to patients or colleagues, or get any kind of closure. The corporate lawyers throw a check at you (and call it a "notice") and dare you to say a word.

(Of course, daring me not to say a word after you've lied to me and screwed me over, is never a very good legal - or PR strategy.)

The "without cause" or "voluntary termination" is one of medicine's dirtiest little secrets.  The way it is done is emotionally devastating to physicians - who invest so much of their lives and souls into their educations and practices.

It is EVIL and it is cruel and it is one of the things about the business of medicine - particularly "non-profit" and public service medicine - that should have been REFORMED a long time ago . . . but hasn't been.

Randolph Hospital DID have a reason to fire me . . . but it was a reason that was not legally-defensible, and as such, would NEVER/EVER make the Courier Tribune's front page.

The best interests of the "non-profit", charged with the public good, had to be protected.

In January 1998, Mr. Eblin's Practice Director (Mike Bridges) sent me a letter.  And in that letter he made a host of half-baked/trumped-up accusations that had not been vetted through ANY KIND of proper peer or physician review (another direct violation of my NHSC contract) .  The letter essentially attempted to put me in a box whose access was totally controlled by Eblin and Bridges.

I was told I had to "shut up" about problems at the hospital/practice, OR ELSE.

Physicians to whom I showed the letter (I don't take threats well) were horrified at its implications.

Just two nights later,  I would be placed in the position of making the choice that I've paid for every single minute of every day since.  I was roused from my bed by the frantic call of a terrified charge nurse, who begged me to intervene in a "bad baby" case that was being grossly mis-managed by another physician.

The Family Practitioner was an employee of a Moses Cone affiliate.  His skills and qualifications in neonatal resuscitation had been falsely advertised (by Mr. Eblin's PR team) to an unsuspecting public.  And, according to the nurse (whose judgement I implicitly trusted) the doctor had no clue as to what he was doing . . . she was very worried the baby would die before the transport team got there.

The doctor refused to acknowledge he needed help.

There wasn't really any question about what I should do.  I got out of bed.  I went in.  I took over the case (with the angry doctor yammering about his "rights" being violated in the background).  By all accounts, I correctly diagnosed the newborn's problem, and (after a quick consultation with the neonatologist-on-call at Brenner's - who told me he trusted me and to do what needed to be done), initiated the proper management that would save her life.

I (foolishly) though being in the right would be enough.  The system would surely protect me.

The next day, the medical nimrod I had rescued told the baby's parents that I was at fault for what went wrong. Fortunately, real neonatologists at N.C. Baptist Hospital (the guys who trained me) set the parents straight about who was the Pediatric expert - and who was the wannabe.

I reported the incident to hospital peer review the next morning (again in defiance of the Practice Director's threats).  Nothing would ultimately come of it, of course.  The wagons circled fairly quickly - and not around me.

Months later, when I felt "safe" to do so (we'll get to that in a couple of paragraphs), I would report it (in confidence) to the N.C. Medical Board, the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Hospital Organizations (JCAHO), and Clinton USDHHS Secretary, Donna Shalala.

Each and every one of those "oversight" organizations, in excruciatingly slow, methodical succession, threw me under the bus . . . to protect the "non-profit" and its charitable works.  The life and career of one doctor . . . one public servant . . . did not matter in the face of Randolph Hospital's best interests.

I was a Federal whistle-blower long before whistle-blowing was cool.  Alas, part of my problem in pursuing this case from the start is that the Federal government I served (honorably and well) did not have my back and did not enforce ANYTHING . . . not my contract/the practice's agreement with the NHSC . . . not IRS code . . . not Federal law.

The government totally let me swing.

Years later, "reform", as legislated by Obamacare poured millions into the National Health Service Corps (without doing anything to better protect its providers), and has the IRS over-seeing healthcare.  And it's just absurd . . . a joke really, to those of us who have been schooled in how the Federal bureaucracy works.

Moreover, whistle-blowing physicians are already hog-tied by the canons of our profession - by confidentiality and privacy - and HIPAA.  The "protections" we supposedly enjoy are only obtainable if one can afford a $500/hr lawyer.  Most of us wind up eating our whistles.

(My salary at RMA was $129,000 year when I was fired.  I definitely could not afford a $500/hour lawyer. Instead, I got a Schmidly.)

It is also very hard to convince the general public that anything awful happened when EVERY oversight agency you plead your case to turns a deaf ear . . . and just pretends you do not exist.

The best interests of the "non-profit", charged with the public good, had to be protected.

I will say that Congressman Howard Coble did manage to see that RMA paid for my malpractice insurance "tail"coverage (as was required by the practice's site agreement with the NHSC).  But it was nine months after the fact, and the damage was long done.

Of course, everything that happened is a little more believable these days.  For sixteen years later, all you have to do to understand my predicament is try to schedule a simple appointment at a Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital.  Or find/read an IRS e-mail.

Mr. Eblin and his lawyers added injury to insult when they crafted the pay-out of a six-month "notice" in such a fashion as to completely muzzle me . . . AND (most importantly) prevent me from cleanly/smoothly transitioning into private practice.  They wanted to keep "the business" for themselves.  I could not complain under threat of termination-for-cause (a career-killing event), and I could not do anything (including working on a practice start-up) that might compete with my "employer".  This too was in wholesale violation of my agreement with the National Health Service Corps . . . whose mission is not only to recruit physicians to "under-served" areas, but to RETAIN their services.  In that six-month time period, Mr. Eblin repeatedly LIED to angry parents about my sudden/unexplained disappearance (leading many to believe I had abandoned them).  Meanwhile, practice and hospital Board Members (virtually interchangeable), who were legally responsible for every decision Eblin made, distanced themselves from what happened . . . ala, they were not involved in the decision to fire me . .   the hospital was paying me "severance" . . . and I was "free" to do anything I wanted.

These good/fine upstanding Christian businessmen, who now make a big show of attending prayer events on behalf of our now-"dying" town (Forbes Magazine said so) begging The Lord for prosperity, were LYING.  RMA would not even give me a list of my patients.

Their "non-profit" hospital, charged with the public good, had to be protected.

(From what I understand of the Scriptures, the Lord turns a deaf ear to liars/hypocrites.)

The Courier Tribune, totally in the hospital's pocket, printed a few of the tamer letters the got from very angry parents, but otherwise did NOTHING to investigate what happened - or inform the public of the hospital's dirty-dealings.

Their financial lifeblood, the "non-profit" hospital, charged with the public good, had to be protected.

In early February 1999, with everything I had ever worked for in Asheboro destroyed, I sued Randolph Medical Associates.

When Randolph Hospital's lawyers found out about my complaint to USDHHS Secretary Shalala (during depositions), they recommended to the hospital's Board-of-Directors that I be sued for "libel".

It's called a SLAPP-suit . . . a legal intimidation tactic to get your opponent to back down.

The Board accepted the recommendation.  Jim Kinlaw, (of White Oak Family Physicians - a potential competitor if I had stayed in town), my childhood doctor and the man who had been instrumental in recruiting me home to Asheboro, abstained from the vote . . . not because what the hospital was doing was medically and morally reprehensible . . . but because of his "conflicted interest" . . . specifically his "friendship" with my parents (my Mother had taught his children - just like she taught Courier Editor, Ray Criscoe's).

With "friends" like that Tom and Irene Johnson did not need enemies.

But, in Dr. Kinlaw's view, the best interests of the "non-profit", charged with the public good, had to be protected.  Killing a little competition in the process was GRAVY.  No conflicts there.

I WAS mortified and humiliated (largely because the Courier Tribune reported the story as a front page headline - a great read for my horrified parents), but I didn't back down.

The lawsuits were settled, in my favor, in 2001 for $125,000 . . . less than one year's salary . . . after three years of professional humiliation and misery piled on top of the loss of my three-year-old practice.  I was exhausted, disillusioned, nearly bankrupt myself, and desperate for normalcy and peace.

I agreed to this amount because in settlement negotiations (forced by the trial judge), the hospital represented itself to be nearly "bankrupt" and maintained that they were unable to afford more than the 125K.  But I was assured that if I cooperated and settled, they would do everything they could to see that I was able to re-establish my practice.

In deposition and sworn court filings, hospital executives maintained that their financial records were "highly confidential".  Even after a judge's order to provide the records, the hospital neglected to include IRS 990's.

And here's why:  Those IRS 990's indicated that any way you did the math, I should have gotten nearly $800,000 in damages. Moreover, the salaries of RMA's Pediatricians had nearly doubled almost as soon as I was tossed out the door.  The Pediatricians were suddenly making in the neighborhood of $200,000 per year.  Arguably, this could have pushed my damages claim to the million dollar mark.

(This will be an important number later.)

Either figure (hell, even half pf either of those figures), after taxes, would have been more than enough to pay my (not inconsiderable) legal fees and debts after three years of litigation and barely making ends meet as a Locum Tenens (my Mom, the sainted TEACHER, had to make my mortgage payment on at least one occasion) . . . then finance the re-establishment the practice that Steve Eblin destroyed and absorbed as his own.

It was the whole POINT of my lawsuit.  I wanted the truth to out.  I wanted to be vindicated.  I wanted to be restored.  I wanted to COME HOME.

But NONE of that would happen, because Bob Morrison (then Randolph Hospital CEO) and Steven Eblin (then hospital VP/practice President - now Randolph Hospital CEO) LIED, REPEATEDLY, to me and to the Court . . . and were allowed to get away with it - by every individual and every state/Federal oversight or law enforcement entity that should have held their feet to the fire.

If Bob Morrison and Steven Eblin had been the least bit worried about the consequences of not obeying the law . . . and if (even in my exhausted/demoralized state) I had seen those returns - and what Randolph Hospital was pulling in . . . not-to-mention what the supposedly all-but-bankrupt "non-profit" practice was paying its doctors and executives (after three years of being doing Pediatrics didn't make them enough money), I would most certainly not have bought the load-of-horse-hockey Bob Morrison and Steve Eblin were selling . . . that if I didn't cooperate . . . for the good of the community . . . the practice could fold.

Now, a lot of people have pointed out that my attorney should have known that the information was out there/available - and insisted on having the returns at his fingertips during settlement negotiations.  And it's a point well taken.  Steve Schmidly and I had a huge falling out after I pulled all of this information together - and understood just how thoroughly I had been hosed.  And he's dead now.  I will never know the why's. But regardless of what Schmidly did or did not do, I do know that Bob Morrison and Steve Eblin, as executives of a "non-profit", and "public servants" charged with the public good, should NEVER have gotten away with what they did.

They should have been fired.  And arguably fined/prosecuted.

And don't even get me started on their high-dollar lying lawyers.  Let's just say that the North Carolina State Bar and I have a different definition of legal ethics.

But NONE of the checks or balances in the system worked - starting with Randolph Hospital's LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE Board-of-Directors - also charged with the public good. 

The signatures were not even dry on the settlement before Randolph Hospital's senior executives were acting like jerks again.  They were not going to help me with anything.  They had pulled a fast one and dodged a bullet.  Their Board-of-Directors snickered right along with them at their ingenuity.

For it's part, the lap-dog-known-as-the-Courier Tribune buried the story of my legal "victory" in a second page short-take.  A good many of the good people of Asheboro - who had read the headline that I was a liar - never heard that Morrison and Eblin ran from their own lawsuit with their tails tucked between their legs.  Can you pronounce PRAVDA?

The "non-profit", charged with the public good, had to be protected.

Justice was obstructed . . . and the public good thwarted . . . because two "non-profit" executives were not compelled IN ANY WAY to comply with IRS rules governing "non-profits".  They/their lawyers knew that, in North Carolina, they could do what they wanted under the cover of "charity", and not worry about being held accountable.

And I gave up on ever coming back home to practice.  I had won the battle - but lost the war.

One more point:  All of the tax dollars that were spent by the National Health Service Corps (and in my case, the NC Office of Rural Health) to recruit both me and Dr. Laurie Anderson to Asheboro were poured down the drain when we left.  And pissed on.

When I finally pieced the ruse all together, once of the first things I did was write the IRS and ask that the hospital be fined for withholding the returns, and/or the executives involved prosecuted for perjury.  With some persistence, I even got to sit down with an FBI agent . . . who did not dispute the merits of my case.

But the IRS/U.S Attorney's office did NOTHING.

The "non-profit", charged with the public good, had to be protected.

Does ANYONE see the irony now - in the wake of healthcare "reform" that put the IRS in charge?  The SAME IRS that would not life a finger to help me?

Locally, I couldn't get the case past our local Jabba-Lord, Garland Yates . . . to the N.C. Attorney General (who cannot intervene unless asked) . . . for a proper investigation.  Garland clearly wanted to keep a lid on all of it.

Let's move on now to Chip Womick's article:

It starts with the basics.  Randolph Hospital's revenues (what they pulled in) were $122.8 million in the fiscal year ending in September 2012.  Once operational expenses and payroll were figured in, Randolph Hospital lost 2.4 million dollars last year.  The article states they lost nearly that same amount the year before.

The article goes on to list beds and visits to the various departments (inpatient, emergency department, outpatient clinics, home health visits), and stated that nearly 30% of the patients seen were uninsured.

It then goes on to state the obvious - the hospital's mission as a "non-profit" is to see what comes in the door regardless of a patient's ability to pay.  It's "Civics 101" - and the reason I came home . . .

. . . to serve the place where I grew up - the place where my Mother had taught school (special Ed, then kindergarten, then first grade) for over 30 years.

And I would submit that a SMART businessman would NEVER have done the things that Steve Eblin did to this "home girl".  You simply do not banish someone from their childhood home - someone who came home to better the place - because you're a monopolistic control freak.  It's just not going to turn out well.

I digress (had to get at least one in).  Chip goes on to provide us with a little history . . . which, in light of the stunts Morrison and Eblin have been able to pull during their reign-of-terror began in 1993 . . . is very interesting to me:

The hospital opened its doors in July 1932 . . . partially funded by a grant from the Duke Endowment . . .. and the rest raised by the community (ala pennies-in-milk-cartoons in the throws of the Depression) . . . after the N.C. General Assembly enacted a bill authorizing its incorporation.  Objectives included . . .

"To maintain and operate an institution for the treatment of sick people under the direction and supervision of skilled physicians and surgeons."  And . . .

"To have and issue no capital stock . . . to be operated and maintained at actual cost and entirely without profit, making only such changes to its inmates and patients for rooms, beds, attention and services as will be adequate to defray its actual cost and no more."

The hospital "BELONGED TO THE PEOPLE" of Randolph County.

Savor that one dear reader.   I say again, the hospital BELONGED TO THE PEOPLE.

The Courier Tribune allows comments on its stories.  Unless they are mine.  Ray Crisco (the Editor) has told people that he would allow my comments on stories about the hospital if I didn't "always" take them back to what the hospital did to me.

I need to "get over it" and "move on".

The "non-profit, charged with the public good, must be protected.

The first comment on this story was dropped by VenitHiems.  I will neither confirm nor deny that I know who Venit is.  (For the record, I don't think "Winter is coming".  I know it is already here.):

"Nice article. Very . . . what is the word . . . "transparent". It contains lots of information (names of board members and such) that was very hard to get Mr. Eblin to share in the not-too-distant past. 

But you left out the part about overpaid executives driving "dime-a-dozen" Pediatricians out of town - one of them (born, raised and educated within an hour of Asheboro) because she had the audacity to listen/respond to hospital nurses and save a baby's life.

The only outcome Mr Eblin was focused on then was PR. What happened to that patient didn't matter to him. And what he/his boss did to that doctor (a Federal whistleblower before whistleblowing was cool) was criminal. Not real "charitable" if you asked me.

The business about all of the hospital's profits going back into the organization for the good of the community is a little hard to stomach as well - if one has seen the IRS returns - and Bob Morrison's house.

Let's see if things in Asheboro have really changed. Let's see if the local newspaper leaves this comment up."

Shortly thereafter, my good friend, Henry "Buzz" Armfield (of the Asheboro Armfields, whose family name graces the front door of the hospital's cancer center), took his scalpel to the piece:

"I've been hesitant to involve myself with anything Asheboro related, after all, I haven't lived there in many years, and what family I had there is now deceased (there could be some cousins, but I haven't seen them in years, and I have no relationship with them). But, this article was brought to my attention, and it made me take notice. There's something I want from Asheboro, and I'd like for the matter to be taken under consideration. And what do I want?, why I want the bronze plaque that hangs at the front of the Armfield Cancer Center, the one in memorial of my paternal grandparents....and here's why....

According to GuideStar USA, Inc., a reporting service for non-profits, in 2011 Randolph Hospital, Inc. paid then CEO Robert Morrison $1,112,524 in annual compensation under W2/1099 forms, and...they declared it on an IRS form 990, prepared for them by an out of town, actually an out of state, accounting firm…feel free to Google and see it for yourselves. I suppose using accountants from far away cuts down on the ability of the locals to know what goes on. If you look further into the GuideStar profile for Randolph Hospital, Inc., you will see that they have never identified their board, and have not provided the IRS form 990 for the 2012 fiscal year.

Furthermore, in the same financial time period, Randolph Hospital, Inc. paid someone named Sandra F. Allen, who's identified as Vice President of Clinical Services, $436,291 in compensation….and, total compensation for all "current officers, directors, trustees, and key employees" per part IX, Statement of Functional Expenses on the IRS 990 filed for the time period was $2,653,, that means that Bob Morrison was solely responsible for almost....42 percent of this expense. To Ms. Allen's credit, she was only in it for a mere 16 percent. Look, almost 58% of this amount went to.....just two people….but….the hospital is losing money?

Stay with me now.....

An industry publication, Becker's Hospital Review, dated September 26, 2012, lists the CEO compensation of the top 25 grossing non-profit hospitals in the United States….., it can be easily found via an Internet search, and one just needs to scroll down to the final listing, which is held by Kevin Sowers of lowly Duke University Hospital in our own Durham, the way, this data was compiled from IRS 990's for the year 2010....the same form that Randolph Hospital filed and which can be seen on GuideStar….our poor Mr. Sowers made a paltry $658,592 in comparison. Betcha he wishes he were CEO at Randolph Hospital instead of that "small time" medical center in Durham…

That the Courier-Tribune has taken the time to publish this is nothing less than amazing. They aren't much when it comes to investigative journalism, in fact I've always felt that it was a "sunshine and puppies" sort of publication where all the news is good, all of the time.

Steve Eblin makes an interesting comment…..“Last year,” he said, “two-thirds of the hospitals in North Carolina lost money.”

If you read the article titled "Non Profit Hospitals Thrive on Profits" in the April 21, 2012 edition of "The Charlotte Observer", you will see this…."Nonprofit hospitals in the Charlotte region are respected community institutions. They save lives, heal the sick and provide good jobs. At the same time, most of them are stockpiling a fortune.

Their profits have risen along with their prices. Top executives are paid millions as their hospitals expand, buy expensive technology and build aggressively. And they benefit each year from a perk worth millions: They pay no income, property or sales taxes.These institutions were created with charitable missions. But many don’t act like nonprofits anymore. In their quest for growth and financial strength, they have contributed to the rising cost of health care, leaving thousands of patients with bills they struggle to pay."

And, in the Raleigh "News and Observer" dated April 22, 2012, a very similar article was run with the title "North Carolina's Urban Hospitals Pile Up the Cash"…..note that the "News and Observer" is a sister publication to the "Charlotte Observer" and both owned by the McClatchy Company…it said…."North Carolina’s hospitals are respected community institutions. They save lives, heal the sick, contribute to local charities and provide good jobs.Most of them are nonprofits. But many of them, especially the big ones, are making a fortune.During the Great Recession, their profits have stayed strong, and they’ve raised their prices. Top executives enjoy million-dollar compensation packages as they expand, buy expensive technology and build lavish facilities. Their customers buy the services before they know the cost, and they often don’t understand the bills."

Steve Eblin is the same guy who was overheard telling a group OB-GYN physicians employed by Randolph Hospital, Inc. that …."Pediatricians are a dime a dozen"……..I would love for him to have had said that to the late Drs. John L. Cochran and Eugene B. Cannon (my uncle), being seagoing veterans of World War II, they would've mopped the floor with him. Both of them, along with the now retired Dr. Ann H. Suggs, were the Pediatricians for many generations in your community. And, unlike what Steve Eblen promotes, they practiced medicine first, and counted money afterwards, and quite often they did it gratis, or for reduced fees. Neither Drs. Cochran nor Suggs lived in the more affluent areas of your community, and the exception being Dr. Cannon, and that was solely due to my late maternal grandmother giving him and her daughter (my Aunt Dee Armfield Cannon) the cash to build on Lexington Road.

I love numbers, they make things stand out....and by now you should be seeing something. Your local hospital still uses bloodletting, it's just that your entire community is the one being drained. It's not so difficult to see how Randolph Hospital, Inc. has been losing money is it? More so with the likes of the board members who have to be aware that this is taking place. I'll single one out, and I can as I have worked for him, and that would be none other than "Mikey" Miller. He took one of your local banks, long established and loyal to the community, and with his arrogance, and ignorance, drove it right into the arms of federal regulators. That was a precursor for what is to come with your hospital.....get ready for Big Hospital, Inc., it's coming to Asheboro. They'll swoop in, take over, and make changes, and they'll save your hospital,'ll never again be….local.

Perhaps this is what you want.....

Now, back to what I want....the bronze plaque. When Big Hospital, Inc. comes in, and takes charge, I suspect they'll close your cancer center, and face it, with five cancer centers (and...I didn't factor in UNC, nor Duke) located within a 30-35 minute drive of Asheboro, they'll likely do it. And, I want the plaque....and you will certainly ask...why?

Why?...well, I have this friend, who was one of the smarter folks whom I grew up with, and she more than anything else wanted to return to Asheboro and practice medicine, Pediatrics to be specific. She worked hard, and was said to be one of the most technically-gifted grads ever to come out of the Pediatric residency program at Brenner Children’s Hospital (N.C. Baptist Hospital). She returned to Asheboro for the sole reason that she wanted to come home and give back to her community, and went to work for….Randolph Hospital, Inc. And for this, she was nearly financially and emotionally destroyed by the management of this very same hospital. Honestly, knowing what I know about Randolph Hospital, Inc., I've never wanted my family name associated with the place. So, with their red ink, and this first ever article, it appears that they're headed for either insolvency, or…a buyout. I'll wager a buyout.

I want to give the plaque to her, to hang in her home. A reminder that she did the right thing, in spite of being in the wrong place. Besides, it gets my family name off of the side of the building….just call me when I can come and get the plaque."  

Buzz's comment made me cry.

The Courier's story posted on a Saturday.  By Tuesday both comments were deleted.  There was apparently a third comment posted that I never got to see.

The "non-profit", charged with the public good, had to be protected.

Then the story, although apparently popular (I would guess for its comments), disappeared from the Courier's webpage - and could not be brought up on a simple word-association search.  But I had linked the story . . . and posted the comments on Facebook.

And undaunted, VenitHiems posted another comment:

Could the newspaper please advise as to why two comments posted over the weekend (which questioned the obscenely inflated salaries of the hospital's senior executives - and compared them to the hospital's "losses") were removed from this story?  

Neither comment appeared to violate any "term of service".  

I would assume either the Editor - or the reporter - removed them.  

Why is the Courier Tribune so determined to shut down any and all criticism of Randolph County's largest 501 (c)(3)?  Is there something ugly in their closet?

And, Buzz Armfield, not-at-all-pleased with the newspaper's censorship, re-posted his comment.

This time the comments stayed up.  But the comment section was quickly closed.  And the story remains buried.

The "non-profit", charged with the public good, had to be protected.

Before closing, I said I'd get back to that million-dollar figure.  We're going to go back to Guidestar.

As Chip pointed out (and Buzz ran with), Randolph Hospital lost $2,475,870 in the fiscal year ending on September 30, 2012 (IRS year 2011).

It "lost" $1,911,810 the previous year (IRS year 2010).

Former CEO, Bob Morrison, pocketed 1,295,424 in fiscal year 2011.

He pocketed $951,760 in fiscal year 2010.

His salary alone accounts for half the hospital's "losses" for both fiscal years.

As Buzz alluded in his comment on Chip's story, a million-plus dollars is also a criminally inflated amount of reimbursement for the CEO of a "non-profit" hospital in a small mill town.  There is simply NO WAY the Board-of-Directors can justify dolling out that kind of money to an administrator.

Now go back to Randolph Hospital's stated mission when it was founded:

"To maintain and operate an institution for the treatment of sick people under the direction and supervision of skilled physicians and surgeons."

During his tenure at Randolph Hospital, Bob Morrison did not see a single patient.  What he did do is schmooze and kissed the "right" asses to stay in power - and lord over those who did. As far as I can tell, he never had one original idea and skimmed his very phat living off the labor of other "lesser" beings.  He did what he wanted to whomever he wanted and answered to no one (his Board-of-Directors rubber-stamping everything he did) . . . especially not skilled physicians or surgeons.

I can state, very factually, that Bob's cluelessly Draconian control-freak management is the reason a number of skilled physicians who once saw the promise of Asheboro left it behind in the dust.

Now that you've pondered what Asheboro/Randolph County got for Bob's millions, think about what I should have been awarded at settlement of the lawsuits in 2001 . . . IF Bob Morrison and Steve Eblin had been compelled in any way - by anyone/any agency . . . to admit the truth about what they had done . . . and acknowledge the true value of what they had stolen.

Hell, think about what half of that sum might have accomplished:

For one, the re-establishment of my practice and the retention of my services to the children of Asheboro . . . the place where I grew up . . . the place where I intended to live and practice the whole of my career.

And for another, the completion of the stated mission of the National Health Service Corps . . . a mission Randolph Hospital accepted many years ago . . . a mission already bought and paid for by the American taxpayer . . . only for hospital executives to betray by breaking every promise they ever made, and stealing my practice as their own . . . all because I dared tell them they were medically, ethically, morally WRONG.

But the "non-profit", charged with the public good, had to be protected.  At ALL costs.

I, for one, think the cost to Asheboro and Randolph County was too high.

I know I will never get back what I lost . . . what was stolen from me . . . it is too much to put into words.  You don't "get over it".  You move on as a shell of what you could have been.

For healthcare "reform" to get anywhere (particularly as it pertains to curbing costs), "the public good" needs to be re-evaluated and re-aligned to more closely approximate what we were all taught in high school civics class.

In my case (and Buzz Armfield's) that would be Asheboro High School.  Class of 1980.

As for what passes for local journalism in Asheboro, upon his retirement, the Courier Tribune awarded Bob Morrison with a soapbox (a series of guest editorials) from which he could biliously vomit his progressive/high-minded theories of what we should all believe - and how we should act - upon a public that had already paid-through-the-nose for his dubious "services".

It has been annoysome, but I have had some fun with that. Lots of fun.

At any rate, I think it's well-established now that, where Dr. Mary Johnson is concerned, in determinedly protecting the "non-profit" from the consequences of its own folly, the Courier Tribune has NEVER been on the side of the public good.

And NONE of it was for the children.

As for the true purpose of Chip's article, my family, friends and I do not need any softening up.  We would WELCOME a buy-out . . . the sooner, the better.  Randolph Hospital is no "House-of-God", and it needs to be steam-cleaned . . . starting with the executive offices.

I expect you could save a couple million dollars right there.