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Western Maryland Hospital Center CEO responds to audit

May 10, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ
  • The Western Maryland Hospital Center in Hagerstown.
File photo,

HAGERSTOWN -- After learning that medication was missing, officials at Western Maryland Hospital Center in Hagerstown contacted state authorities, CEO Cindy Pellegrino said, responding to an audit that accused the center of not responding properly.

The state Office of Legislative Audits issued a report last month listing six types of criticisms of the center, as part of a periodic review of state agencies.

One criticism was that the center "did not refer for further investigation a case of possible criminal or unethical conduct by a State employee involving controlled dangerous substances (CDS) as required by Executive Order."

The report says the center didn't send information to the attorney general's office or the governor's chief legal counsel after hearing that an employee might have taken drugs that were to be destroyed.

In an interview last week, Pellegrino said the theft of prescription medicine -- she couldn't recall what it was -- was reported when it was discovered, which was after the employee had resigned.

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Pellegrino said officials were concerned about the employee's "unusual behavior." The employee was called to a meeting to talk about it and resigned, Pellegrino said.

Afterward, when the center learned prescription medicine was missing, it contacted the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the state Board of Nursing and a state agency that handles drug investigations, she said.

"We were telling everybody we could think of to tell," Pellegrino said.

In the end, there was no conclusive proof the employee took the medicine, she said.

The hospital center provides chronic care and treatment to patients who need hospital-level rehabilitation, long-term nursing and renal dialysis service, according to a summary in the report.

In fiscal year 2009, it was licensed to house 123 patients and had an average daily population of 67 in-patients, the report says.

The report also accuses the hospital center of accounting gaps and failing to get competitive bids on a few purchases.

Among the other findings:

o The hospital center purchased 340 grocery store gift cards, worth $10 each, as a bonus for its staff, despite having fewer than 300 full-time employees. Pellegrino said each employee received one card; extra cards were used as bonuses for staff achievement.

o The center used a vendor for psychological services in fiscal years 2007 and 2008 without seeking bids. The vendor was paid $71,000 in fiscal year 2008. Pellegrino said the vendor provides a specialized service, so the center stuck with it.

o The center spent $8,795 on legal fees and other expenses to help an employee become a permanent U.S. resident. Pellegrino said the money was spent while recruiting a doctor from Jamaica, who was in the U.S. on a work visa. She said that under the visa program, the center, as the employer, was required to pay the costs.

Pellegrino said she considered the auditor's findings after several months of review "very benign."

"These were very easy things to fix," she said.

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