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I-Team: Inspector Gen. Blast Hospital Foundation
MIAMI (CBS4) – Last December, the CBS4 I-Team revealed serious concerns regarding Jackson Memorial Hospital’s effort to recruit international patients.
More than $7 million of taxpayer money is given each year to a Jackson foundation with little or no control over how that money was being spent. Following our report, the county’s Inspector General launched his own investigation – and the results were startling.
As Inspector General Chris Mazella recently told county commissioners that auditors found more than $100 thousand in “questionable” credit card purchases, including more than $37 thousand spent on local meals, $7 thousand for flowers, gifts and birthday cakes; $12 thousand on limousine services; and more than $6 thousand on a 5-day Caribbean cruise for Foundation executives.
Mazella’s investigators found so many problems with the hospital’s international program that he told commissioners he was planning on producing a series of reports in the coming months.
“We will be reporting on consulting contracts and travel and entertainment expenses,” Mazella said. “Then we plan to continue our audit series and issue a third report on performance.”
Mazella’s findings support allegations made last year by a former Foundation executive, Nancy Valenzuela, who was fired after she tried to question the way Jackson International operated.
Valenzuela told the CBS4 I-Team last year that she was shocked to realize neither hospital officials nor those with the hospital’s foundation, Foundation Health Services, knew for sure whether the international program they were spending millions to promote was turning a profit.
“There was no way to see where they were making money and where they weren’t making money,” she said last year. “[or] Which countries were generating the most patients and which ones weren’t. Which specialties were the best ones to market and which ones weren’t.”
As Valenzuela told CBS4 News last year, just as troubling to her was the way in which Foundation Health Services squandered taxpayer money.
“A lot of wasteful spending,” she said.
At the time, the head of Jackson Memorial Foundation and Foundation Health Services, Rolando Rodriguez, called Valenzuela’s claims absurd.
“Foundation Health Services is very, very successful,” he said, although he also showed a stunning lack of knowledge regarding how the business operated.
At one point in our 2009 interview, Rodriguez suggested the Foundation had generated $30 million in profit for the hospital. But, as we pointed out, he forgot to include the actual cost of treating the foreign patients, including things such as the cost of doctors, nurses, and medication.
We decided to go back to Rodriguez and see what he has to say today, given the findings by the Inspector General. We were particularly interested in hearing him explain the taxpayer financed cruise he enjoyed.
We asked him if he could explain how a five-day Caribbean cruise for him and his staff benefited the hospital.
“At the time it was a retreat planned by the manager that was there at the time,” Rodriguez said. “It did benefit the hospital, because it did have a strategic retreat, they did meet, there are minutes.”
The Inspector General also discovered the Foundation had purchased a $53 thousand phone system that was not compatible with the hospital’s phone system. It’s now sitting in a closet unused.
In his overall response to the Inspector General report, Rodriguez consistently sought to diminish his own role in the organization and to lay blame on others.
“I was asked to simply supervise from afar, report back to the board any concerns that I had and help in any way that I could, but I was not running the company,” Rodriguez told the CBS4 I-Team.
But the Inspector General found that excuse “unpalatable” and said Rodriguez is the person “most accountable” for the problems they found. The Inspector General report states that between running Jackson Memorial Foundation and Foundation Health Services, Rodriguez was paid more than $330 thousand last year.
It would seem that since he was paid such a large amount of money, he should have a better understanding of what was taking place. But Rodriguez said he did not want to discuss his salary and he refused to say how much he was making.
“I would prefer not to comment,” he said.
The Inspector General’s report also notes something rather odd. The American Express cards being used by the foundation are in Rolando Rodriguez’s name. Since 2006, more than $1.1 million in charges have been charges to those cards – which are paid for with taxpayer money.
Naturally this raised another question: What happens to all the reward points generated on those credit cards. More than a $1 million in purchases would be worth thousands, and possibly tens of thousands of dollars.
Once again Rodriguez refused to answer the question directly.
“Well, I think those are internal management issues,” he said. “I can only tell you one thing, that AMEX card that is used is my AMEX card that I have allowed the organization to use.”
When I tried to push Rodriguez for an answer, we were suddenly interrupted by Alan Diamond, chairman of Foundation Health Services board of directors.
“Rolando we have to go,” Diamond said sharply.
“I’m sorry he has to be somewhere,” Rodriguez said walking away.
The CBS4 I-Team recently obtained a copy of Rodriguez’s employment agreement, including an addendum, signed last month by Diamond, guaranteeing that even if the hospital decides to end its work with Foundation Health Services, Rodriguez would receive a $52 thousand golden parachute at taxpayer expense.
On Tuesday, the County Commission will review both the Inspector General’s report and the hospital’s international program.
In the meantime, the hospital’s chief financial officer will begin reviewing any purchase Rodriguez or his staff makes for more than $25.
And as for Nancy Valenzuela, her attorney told me she recently settled her case against the Foundation. As part of the agreement, she is no longer able to tell what she knows about how the foundation operated.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
In distributing my gift to its ultimate recipient, a fund to endow a Chair at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, the Foundation held back a significant contribution in support of its own "administrative expenses." I could have avoided this by making the contribution directly to this cause rather than through JMF.
Ways to make it better...
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
Immediately replace the Jackson Memorial Foundation's President, Rolando Rodriguez (see CBS News article above) and his senior management staff.