Mentioned throughout the court file of James Hahn’s wrongful termination lawsuit against the Delta Health Alliance is a possible grant from DHA to University of Mississippi Medical Center to help the hospital pay for implementing electronic health records.
The hospital’s move toward EHRs is part of the mandates spelled out in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. A hospital spokesman told the Mississippi Business Journal in early November that the process would cost $70 million over the next five years.
In a motion for summary judgment, DHA attorneys asked Lafayette County Circuit Judge John Gregory to bar Hahn’s attorney, Jim Waide, from seeking information about DHA possibly awarding a multi-million dollar grant to UMMC to implement EHRs, contingent upon the hospital using Chicago-based Allscripts as its software provider. In 2008, according to court filings, DHA paid Allscripts $1.775 million. DHA attorneys argued Waide’s seeking information about the grant during discovery was improper, because Hahn had not mentioned the claims in his original complaint.
Hahn, who was DHA’s senior vice president of programs before his May 2010 termination, said in his initial complaint that DHA CEO Dr. Karen Fox had improperly spent agency money for personal expenses, including a condo in Oxford, babysitting services and to pay an attorney for a private legal matter. The nonprofit’s board of directors approved each of the expenses, in a resolution adopted about three months after Hahn filed suit. The case settled last May, with the terms under seal. Fox, who remains DHA’s CEO, is now under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi. Her attorney told the MBJ in late November he’s confident she will be cleared of any wrongdoing.
Jack Mazurak, spokesperson for UMMC, wrote in an email to the MBJ that between July 2006 and June 2009, the hospital received a grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration that was administered through DHA via a sub-agreement between the hospital and the nonprofit.
Under the agreement, the hospital was awarded a budget of $3.5 million to implement EHRs. The grant was on a reimbursement basis; and between fiscal year 2007 and FY 2009, Mazurak wrote, the hospital invoiced DHA for $3.2 million for the project. Roy Campbell III, a Jackson attorney who represents DHA, said in an email to the MBJ that the total budgeted amount for the project was $6.7 million. Mazurak and Campbell each said the sub-grant remains active.
In a phone interview, Mazurak said when the grant was first awarded, Allscripts was one of the vendors selected after a Request for Proposals to implement EHRs at some of UMMC’s outpatient facilities that serve the Delta. One of the modifications made to the grant’s terms was the selection of a new vendor whose technology would allow connectivity between EHRs at the hospital’s outpatient facilities and those at the primary inpatient hospital in Jackson.
“The original grant was not specific to Allscripts,” Mazurak said, when he was asked if the grant was contingent upon the hospital using the Chicago company. The only conditions attached to the grant, Mazurak added, were accountability and oversight provisions that normally accompany federal grants. Mazurak added that the investigation of Fox has not altered the hospital’s relationship with DHA.
Mazurak said the hospital and the nonprofit have several other joint ventures, including an asthmatic center in Greenville, a mental healthcare services and educational programs for junior high school students.
Campbell wrote in his email that the two entities “continue to work together collaboratively on EHRs to increase the access of healthcare and to improve the quality of healthcare to patients in the Mississippi Delta.”
In July 2010, James Hahn sued DHA in Lafayette County Circuit Court, alleging that he was fired for reporting that Fox had inappropriately spent DHA money, including some for personal expenses. Among the claims in Hahn’s complaint were that Fox used DHA funds (which come mostly from federal sources) to:
>> Pay for an attorney in a private legal matter
>> Lease a condominium in Oxford
>> Pay for childcare
>> Pay her interior decorator
>> Purchase two late model cars on top of the $3,000 a month car allowance Fox already received
>> Increase DHA contributions under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act for DHA executives from 11 percent to 20 percent
>> Lobby the Legislature