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Records: DHA paid Delta Council $1M for ‘administrative’ services

December 25th, 2011 2 comments

The Delta Health Alliance has paid an average of $272,000 the past four years for an administrative contract with the Delta Council.

Those figures are spelled out in DHA tax returns.

In 2008, DHA paid Delta Council $293,630 for administrative services. In 2009 and 2010, that number dropped to $275,000. For the fiscal year that ended June 30,2011, DHA paid Delta Council $246,125.

In a phone interview in late November, Delta Council executive vice president Chip Morgan told the Mississippi Business Journal the economic development organization provided back-office services for the nonprofit DHA, which provides healthcare for the poor in the Delta.

Roy Campbell III, a Jackson attorney who represents DHA, said in an email that Delta Council has provided accounting and management services that “have included general bookkeeping and accounting services, payroll and check writing services, internal auditing and procurement services, logistics and administrative support for meetings and events, and community liaison work.”

The CEO of DHA, Dr. Karen Fox, is under investigation by Mississippi’s Northern District U.S. Attorney for possible misuse of agency funds. It’s unknown if DHA’s contract with Delta Council is a part of that investigation. Her attorney has said he’s confident Fox will be cleared of any wrongdoing.

Although DHA’s website lists Morgan as an active board member, Campbell said Morgan has not served on the board since 2007, when DHA first issued a request for proposals for accounting and management consulting services.

Of the three responses to the RFP, Campbell said, Delta Council’s was the lowest, coming in at roughly $275,000 annually. The other two, from companies Campbell did not name, were $500,000 and $552,000 annually. Campbell said DHA’s contract with Delta Council is for five years.

Morgan did not respond to calls and text messages to his cell phone last week.

Since 2006, most of DHA’s funding has come via a competitive grant process administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration. Campbell said DHA does not receive its funding through direct appropriations, and the agency has not paid anyone to lobby for funding on its behalf.

In 2006, an appropriation bill for HRSA included $25 million for DHA. A continuing resolution in 2007 stripped funding for the agency. Funding was restored via a provision in the 2008 farm bill that created a USDA Health Care Services competitive grant program that authorized an annual appropriation of $3 million from 2008 to 2012. DHA has successfully competed for some of that funding, which was open to counties in the Mississippi River Delta, according to a spokesperson for Sen. Thad Cochran.

Also in 2008, Cochran was instrumental in securing a $25 million earmark from HRSA for DHA, in the form of a grant. In 2009, Cochran used the same method to secure $26 million for DHA; in 2010, he secured $35 million.

The money dried up in 2011 and 2012, as part of a moratorium enacted after the 2010 midterm elections, when Republicans whose platform included eliminating earmarks won a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Cochran spokesperson Chris Gallegos said records that charted who Cochran met with, or who may have lobbied for DHA’s funding, were not available.

“Over the years, the Cochran office has worked with a number of officials associated with the Delta Health Initiative, just as the senator’s office works with other constituents and groups from Mississippi,” Gallegos wrote in an email. “The exact dates, times and attendees of such meetings over the past six years are not available. Sen. Cochran is, of course, supportive of thorough oversight and accountability for the proper use of all federal funds.”

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Financial relationship between UMMC, DHA remains in place

December 18th, 2011 No comments

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.”

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