Hearings now on UConn health center
So many scandals and injustices come and go that it could be easy to lose track and just move on to the next outrage. But when a state-run institution is called out on deliberate misconduct — paying a dead professor for six months among the findings — full attention must be paid.
The University of Connecticut Health Center, a medical and dental school, research center and hospital complex in Farmington that treats upward of 1 million patients a year, received bad grades in a state auditor’s report dated May 23.
The auditors found in a review of fiscal years up to 2016 that UConn Health had “deficiencies in internal controls; apparent non-compliance with legal provisions; and need for improvement in management practices and procedures.”
Aside from continuing to pay a professor after he died, the center flouted state policy by rehiring retired state employees and lost track of 746 pieces of equipment worth more than $5,000 each. That alone amounts to $3.7 million. There’s more in the 43-page auditor’s report, for example, salaries increased for employees who approved a consulting contract for a company that engaged the CEO.
When the report was released, state House and Senate leaders were quick to rail against government waste. Some candidates for governor vied over who was first to call for formation of an Inspector General’s office.
That was two weeks ago. Since then — not much. State appropriations to the health center have steadily risen, the report shows. Including employees’ fringe benefits, contributions went from $266.1 million in 2013 to $289.3 million in 2016. Granted, most of the hospital’s income is from patient care, but when a cash-strapped state hands over that much money more accountability is in order.
By state statute, a hearing must be held within 180 days of the Legislature receiving a report. State Sen. Michael McLachlan, the Senate co-chairman of the GAE committee with his House counterpart, requested a hearing on several agencies in a June 8 letter to Democratic committee leaders.
Hearings should be conducted with urgency by the appropriate legislative committees this summer, well
before the deadline, which would be Nov. 20.
Also, the UConn Health Center’s Board of Trustees must question CEO Andrew Agwunobi about the lax management controls and what is being done to correct them.
In a response to a letter by state Republican Leader Len Fasano about “a pattern of failures,” Agwunobi wrote that the salary deposited in a professor’s bank account for months after his death has been repaid and the department head removed from her management position; UConn Health takes the auditors’ findings “very seriously,” he said.
The latest findings follow a state auditor’s report last year that uncovered inadequate medical treatment of 25 prisoners, and the death of eight, and led the state Department of Corrections to cancel its contract with UConn Health.
Assurances are not enough. Legislators need to call UConn Health Center management to a public hearing immediately — before the next scandal diverts attention.
Aside from continuing to pay a professor after he died, the center flouted state policy by rehiring retired state employees and lost track of 746 pieces of equipment worth more than $5,000 each.