Physician Charges: Signature Healthcare’s Westboro Psychiatric Institution Hires
Controversial CEO with History of Creating Patient Harm for Higher Profits
by Bharani Padmanabhan MD PhD
For six years now, a for-profit Brookline psychiatric institution, Arbour-HRI hospital, has been retaliating against a Dr. Sheldon Schwartz for trying to protect against patient abuse and neglect. Four of those years are after he actually quit working at that hospital because the CEO, Patrick Moallemian, made his life a living hell.
Dr. Schwartz, an internal medicine doctor, repeatedly reported patient neglect to the hospital’s administrators and documented what needed to be done to improve patient safety for the most vulnerable patients in our society, those experiencing mental health issues. Diabetics were not getting appropriate diets, patients with serious medical conditions were not getting their medicines as the hospital deemed them too expensive to provide and patients were routinely admitted without a medical examination. Schwartz also reported how some patients were kept unnecessarily long to keep the Medicare/Medicaid money flowing. If you don’t fix these problems, he told the hospital CEO, patients will die.
Moallemian refused to do what Dr. Schwartz repeatedly recommended. Dr. Schwartz quit. A patient died. The Boston Globe reported on the untimely passing of Lori Ann Durant, inside a hospital in Brookline, of breathing difficulties. Dr. Schwartz reported how this death was preventable. The Globe also reported on the forced strip-search of another female patient, a massive human rights violation. Many other cases of patient abuse were reported to the Disabled Persons Protection Commission, and Brookline police records showed a continuing stream of police calls into Arbour-HRI.
Moallemian ran the hospital with the sole aim of increasing profits and achieved 30% profits year after year. During his tenure the hospital’s patients were overwhelmingly on state and federal insurance plans (86%), more than most other hospitals.
Numerous staff members at Schwartz’s hearing testified under oath to the commonwealth that Moallemian interfered with medical decisions in order to maximize reimbursement from Medicare/Medicaid and to ensure 30% profits. Staff also testified to the toxic work environment he created and the daily neglect of psychiatric patients.
During Moallemian’s tenure as CEO, the Dept. of Mental Health repeatedly blocked his hospital from admitting new patients and constantly needed to investigate and monitor the hospital.
And a Middlesex Superior Court jury this year did not believe a word Moallemian said on the stand about Dr. Schwartz’s reports and warnings. They awarded $190,000 against him after deliberating for just 90 minutes. It wasn’t even close.
The Attorney General is also suing Arbour-HRI’s for-profit corporation, Universal Health Services (UHS) of King of Prussia, Pa., to claw-back millions stolen through fraudulent billing. The case went up to the Supreme Court, which upheld that the hospital system had indeed committed insurance fraud. Several other states and the U.S. Government are also investigating UHS and these investigations and legal actions have been heavily covered in the national media, including the Boston Globe.
Despite all this, for four years now the state’s Executive Office of Health has been colluding with Arbour to throw Dr. Schwartz out of the practice of medicine itself. Egregiously, the state openly attempted to blame Dr. Schwartz for the problems at Arbour and labeled as “disruptive” his attempts to call CEO Moallemian’s attention to massive patient safety problems.
Attorney James Paikos, who represented the Board of Registration in Medicine against Schwartz, declared: “You will hear that Arbour was a place with problems. There is probably no dispute to that…” Paikos also blatantly conferred with the UHS attorney throughout the proceedings, showing how this is only one of many cases wherein the Board has worked with psychiatric and medical facilities against doctors/whistleblowers who have dared to speak up against hospital policies that put patients at severe risk in order to capture more profit. I, too, as a Massachusetts’ neurologist, was similarly targeted by our medical board for trying to protect patients.
After the Globe reported on the forced strip search, Moallemian was finally replaced as CEO and went off to other hospitals in different states for short stints each time.
Despite all the known harm and state investigations into the former Moallemian-run Arbour-HRI, he is now being allowed to hold the position of CEO of a new psychiatric facility in Westboro, run by the California corporation, Signature Healthcare. And at 152 beds, the Westboro facility has over twice the number of beds as the 66 at HRI Brookline.
Already, Moallemian has declared in writing in an email to the Globe that the “financial aspects of our operations will also be a high priority.” How much more blatant can it get? Medicaid costs will assuredly balloon even more. By this hiring, it is pretty obvious that Signature Healthcare is much more interested in profits than the people they are allegedly serving.
It is appalling that the state has pursued Dr. Schwartz with such venom and invective while molly-coddling a known disastrous CEO. Clearly this state sees “standards” as something to destroy only whistleblowers with, not the perpetrators.
Why does Health Secretary Marylou Sudders have no standards for CEOs and administrators of our hospitals, especially those who have an established history of neglect and fraud in this commonwealth? Why does she loathe our vulnerable patients this much?
Any decent state would have considered the history of Moallemian’s tenure at Arbour-HRI and blocked his appointment as CEO at a bigger hospital, especially given his commitment to higher profits. All hospitals need profits, but Moallemian’s methods and total lack of care for patients have proven disastrous already.
How many more of our vulnerable patients need to die to keep those dollars flowing in? ♦