Posted by Steven Glazer, Urban Times News on September 17, 2003 at 16:28:33:
Urban Times News
By Steven Glazer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Here in Jersey City, the Medical Center, or rather Liberty Health Care Systems with its bewildering labyrinth of subsidiaries and affiliates, domestic and offshore, continues to deluge us with overwhelming evidence of ever greater criminality. The magnitude of the crime is amplified by the sloppiness of its execution and stupidity. Management continues to stonewall and take the position that despite published disclosure of heinous acts, nothing has happened. There has been no official reaction besides some hastily called meetings to deal with revelations that have appeared in The Urban Times News. Silence and Denial are the official public posture of management and its advisors. That posture will not be tenable for very much longer.
Besides all the allegations—we have to say that even though we have seen the proof—previously disclosed, we have learned a little something about the motivation and thought process behind the criminality of Metsch’s Healthcare Organization.
Most people who dedicate a goodly portion of their lives to becoming a Medical Doctor, that is, an M.D. a physician, take not less than twelve years to complete the process. Metsch is an academic doctor with a Phd. In Public Health. When it was expedient to comply with the law and file tax returns as an M.D. in charge of Faculty Practices, Metsch simply completed the corporate tax returns of the Faculty Practices, listing himself as “Jonathan Metsch, M.D.” Twelve months earlier Metsch had filed those same tax returns as Dr. Jonathan Metsch, P.H.
We have the tax returns before and after. One year he is an academic doctor and a scant twelve months later, Boy Wonder is a full fledged physician. Shazam. Most people, very smart people, good students, require twelve years to make the transition from mere mortal to Doctor. But Metsch made it in 12 months. That is fantastic. That is also the very thing that sent Al Capone to prison. The Feds couldn’t get him on anything else, but they made a case of tax evasion. We have made the same case showing tax returns and have even posted them on the Internet. Big Boy, why don’t you surf on over there and check it out?
On Metsch’s watch as CEO of Liberty, the operator of Jersey City’s public hospital, we have seen:
- the precipitous decline in the quality of care provided to residents of Jersey City, for whom the hospital was built.
The reduction of services available to residents. Entire Departments have been eliminated or have left or have been gutted to skeleton crews. The Children’s Hospital of Hudson County, the JCMC, has no pediatric surgeon, for example. The designated trauma center of Hudson County, the JCMC, has no thoracic surgeon. If you are brought here badly injured, you are likely to die. It is that simple. Doctors on the medical staff have told our reporters that they have sent patients away to save their lives telling the patients, “If you stay here you will die.” That, by the way, is a direct quote, verbatim, from a doctor currently on the medical staff who sent patients away to save their lives.
- Patients have suffered wrongful deaths needlessly through carelessness and negligence. This happens. It is an unpleasant fact of life. Doctors are human and make mistakes. We all know that. But it happens far more here than in other institutions and for reasons of mismanagement and poor practice. What makes it atrocious is the cover ups that have followed each of these cases. In short, Liberty kills patients and then lies about it.
- Public funds diverted for private gain, resulting in the denial of service to those for whom it was intended. Our medical center has become a major political pork barrel with the usual cast of character, creeps and crooks. Metsch has accumulated more than $150 Million in an offshore account configured as a captive insurance company domiciled in Hamilton Bermuda. The premium each year for the insurance allegedly provided is more than $20 Million annually. Nobody knows what risk this insurance covers, but it certainly deprives the operation of the hospital of badly needed cash. This spring the hospital ran out of syringes, if you can believe that-a hospital without the ability to administer medication. That is Liberty managing Medicaid funds, State funds, insurance reimbursements. That is also extreme fraud, in our book.
At the same time Liberty always has cash to pay the bogus insurance premiums, in effect, to itself, and a battalion of parasitic consultants. Zulima Farber is one of them. This was the same lady Bob Menendez nominated to the State’s Supreme Court. This is also the same lady who has turned a blind eye to numerous instances of fraud as counsel to the hospital. This is the same lady who has advised Jonathan Metsch how to finesse the wrongful deaths of patients. And this is the same lady who has ignored documented claims of fraudulent insurance claims. As counsel to the hospital Farber has knowingly been party to numerous felonies by Metsch and Liberty. Her appointment to the Supreme Court was knocked down because she had a history as a scofflaw with numerous motor vehicle offenses. Those are the least of the skeletons in her closet.
- Every member of the board of Trustees has some egregiously self-serving deal with the hospital to enrich themselves to varying degrees. Dr. Calvin Strand is the owner of Cal Labs at 550 Newark Avenue. Not only does the medical center send him a few million dollars a year in lab tests that could easily be done in house, the hospital also picks up the tab for the private lab’s equipment and supplies. Strand is a member of the board. Zulima Farber is a member of the board and also counsel to the hospital and liberty. She collects legal fees of $30,000 a month for showing up to a board meeting once a month and the occasional bit of lawyering from time to time. Greg Copeland, another board member, is the owner of Filebank, a business archive storage firm with a warehouse in Paterson. With One Million Square Feet of Space, 1800 hospital rooms, all but 250, unoccupied, acres of vacant floors, the Medical Center pays Filebank for business record storage. Another board member, Martin Bayliss, is the owner of Medical Account Services. M.A.S. collects receivables—bills outstanding—from various third party payers and others such as insurance companies and government agencies and individuals who owe the Medical Center money for various services rendered. M.A.S. collects and pays to the Medical Center about ten cents on the dollar. The industry norm is in the high to mid nineties. The Medical Center thanks to the thoughtful Mr. Metsch provides free office space for M.A.S.’s employees and even pays their salaries. It is not known what the actual collection rate is but the spread between what is turned over to the Medical Center by M.A.S. and the industry norm suggests an enormously lucrative margin for M.A.S. even if the actual numbers are only half the industry average.
- Perhaps most criminal of all is the deliberate shift away from the constituent community for whom the hospital was built, to the new target market of upscale transient yuppies on the waterfront. This is referred to internally by Liberty Healthcare management as the “change of payer mix.” That is a euphemism for a shift in focus of marketing efforts to target the more desirable demographics at the more affluent waterfront and away from the inner city. Needless to say, the waterfront is almost all white and the inner city, just two miles away, is almost all black and brown. In a city that is 54 per cent black and brown and poor, 30 of 320 beds will be set aside for charity care. In a city where hypertension and diabetes are endemic in the black and brown populations there will be no dialyisis unit. The tragedy and stupidity is that there is actually more money to be made in charity care, averaging more than $10,000 per case paid by third party payers, chiefly Medicaid and Charity Care. But Metsch and his brain dead crew have missile-lock on a mistaken perception that there is more money in catering to affluent white patients with private health insurance than to inner city residents covered by state or federal programs. It is truly tragic. It is also a truism that whatever your business, you will make more money in the long run doing the right thing. This lesson is apparently lost on Metsch and Liberty.
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