Bruised Tenet ( THC) has another black eye.

The embattled hospital chain announced Friday that the CEO at one of its hospitals has been indicted for allegedly violating physician recruitment rules. Tenet also said the hospital itself -- Alvarado Hospital Medical Center in San Diego County -- could face similar charges.

Offering its customary response, Tenet stood behind the hospital executive and vigorously denied any wrongdoing.

"We believe in the personal and professional integrity of Alvarado CEO Barry Weinbaum, and we expect him and the hospital to be fully vindicated from these unfortunate allegations," said Trevor Fetter, Tenet's president and acting CEO.

Weingaum was arraigned late Thursday as part of a federal investigation launched six months ago. The Alvarado chief, described by Tenet as "ethical and admired," stands accused of orchestrating improper payments to physicians who relocated to the area four years ago. Last December, federal authorities raided the Alvarado facility in search of evidence that the hospital had engaged in improper physician recruitment, relocation and consulting practices. Tenet blamed the resulting indictment, issued against Weinbaum by the U.S. attorney's office in San Diego, on a former Tenet physician who's trying to negotiate his way out of harsh punishment for his own unrelated crimes.

Tenet said the former physician, a California internist named Paul Ver Hoeve, was indicted on 64 felony Medicare charges -- carrying maximum prison sentences of five years apiece -- three years ago and is now working with authorities to hammer out a deal.

"To avoid a jail sentence, Ver Hoeve agreed in 2001 to provide information in return for a sentence of probation, community service and restitution of $50,000," Tenet stated. "It's also important to keep in mind that these allegations apparently relate to claims by one disgraced physician and are no reflection on the hundreds of dedicated and ethical doctors who practice at Alvarado."

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