Pursed to WhistleA decade has passed since Patrick Campbell's firstpatient died undergoing suspicious heart surgery atTenet's hospital in Redding. Campbell, an internist who was new to the area atthe time, referred the patient to rising surgery starChae Hyun Moon just to be on the safe side. Thepatient had mild symptoms that could indicate hearttrouble. Moon ordered an expensive heart bypass andvalve replacement even though a fellow cardiologistsaw no reason for surgical intervention. The patient,hit by a blood clot and kidney failure after theprocedures, died a week later. Campbell started gathering evidence, eventuallyturned over to the FBI, as the years went by. Helearned of other questionable surgeries -- some justas tragic -- and even shared his concern with hospitaladministrators who seemed oddly aloof. In 1999, hefinally contacted an attorney who declined tointervene after being stonewalled by area authorities. "As your objective and very experienced legaladviser, I set the information aside for a while, cameback and once again reviewed this situation," theattorney wrote. "The conclusion is inescapable: Do notblow any whistle! Period." The attorney determined that the stakes weresimply too high for Campbell to act at that time. "Best to pass on this one, swallow hard and waitpatiently for an unexpected event, which is sure tohappen sooner or later," he wrote. Moon, together with heart surgeon FidelRealyvasquez, kept operating at such a feverish pacethat Redding -- a rural hospital in northernCalifornia -- became the most profitable in the entireTenet chain. And relatively healthy patients, Campbellfeared, continued to suffer or die. Campbell compiled additional evidence and tried,with the same futility, to convince two other lawfirms to alert federal authorities through awhistleblower lawsuit. The FBI finally came knockingin the summer of 2002.
Discount DealLast month, the FBI sting culminated in a"record-breaking" $54 million fine against Redding forallegedly performing numerous unnecessary heartprocedures. Campbell was stunned. His attorney, who calculatedRedding's exposure at more than $500 million, says thehospital got off the hook for just 12 cents on thedollar. And investors celebrated. The company's marketcapitalization surged by hundreds of millions ofdollars -- recouping the $54 million fine withinminutes -- on surprising news of the settlement. Campbell ultimately concluded that under the deal,Redding was refunding baseline Medicare payments --but not the bonus "outlier" checks that made thesurgeries especially lucrative. "The whole theory of
Foreign ExchangeGrassley first takes aim at the usual suspects. He slams former CEO Jeffrey Barbakow for cashingin $111 million worth of stock options -- near theshares' peak -- before the price came crashing down.He casts similar disapproval on Thomas Mackey, theousted operating chief who allegedly orchestratedTenet's Medicare games, for profiting from well-timedstock sales as well. And he blasts Christi Sulzbach,who also sold stock, for holding the dual roles ofgeneral counsel and chief compliance officer -- saying"it doesn't take a pig farmer in Iowa to smell thestench of conflict" -- as Tenet slid back intotrouble. He is particularly tough on Tenet leaders whoremained in power throughout the company's last fallfrom grace and its apparently bogus redemption. He is,in fact, requesting documents preceding Tenet's lastmajor downfall -- when the company locked juveniles inmental hospitals just to bilk their insurancecompanies -- from executives who rose in rank betweenthe two scandals. Besides targeting the top brass,he's seeking explanations from at least four ReddingCEOs and, just as notably, a regional boss who's beentied to trouble before. More than 10 years have passed since Dennis Brown was first accused of rewarding foreign doctors for patient admissions. Brown, who currently oversees the northern California region that includes Redding, served as CEO of Tenet's Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore atthe time. And Alan Ng, a gynecological surgeon, wascomplaining that Brown and his superiors wantedpromises of high patient admissions in return fordiscounted -- or even free -- office space. "I told them if they went around offering doctorsincentives to increase hospital admissions, therewould be such a scandal that a public inquiry would beheld," Ng said in pre-trial documents. "I told themthat things were done differently here