Hospital needs a new approach

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It was just two weeks ago when the Inter Lake published an editorial calling for greater financial transparency at Kalispell Regional Healthcare.

That conclusion followed revelations that the hospital complex had reported a $32 million deficit in operating expenses for fiscal year 2017. Most of that huge number — $21.5 million — was to account for an anticipated settlement regarding an investigation into how the hospital compensated its top physicians and surgeons.

We were willing to give the hospital the benefit of the doubt at the time, but since then, we have seen the detailed whistleblower lawsuit filed by Jon Mohatt against the hospital for systematically violating federal anti-kickback statutes since at least 2011. The suit by Mohatt, chief financial officer for the hospital’s physician network, was originally filed under seal, but is now public.

If Mohatt’s allegations are true, there is no telling how much damage this scheme could have done to the hospital and the community it serves.

Again, we will wait for the legal resolution to be arrived at in court before we make any final determinations, but we are more convinced than ever that the hospital’s board of directors must adopt a new and open policy for its board meetings that treats the public as a partner and not an enemy.

To quote our earlier editorial:

“Information about OUR hospital should be shared with ‘we the public’ readily and regularly.

“Such a policy will put an end to dangerous rumors, and can only help to keep the public on the side of this vital community partner.”

What we have learned in the last week just makes the need for a change in direction even more obvious. Transparency now is not just a suggestion; it is a necessity. This nonprofit hospital not only has our community’s health in its care; it also has millions of dollars of our community’s money — both private and federal — passing through its bank accounts.

If the hospital’s board conducted its business publicly, and the community had a seat at the table, then there would be virtually no chance that the hospital would today stand accused of violating federal law.

It’s time for a change.

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