Critic says Phoebe hypocrisy is "colossal" - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Critic says Phoebe hypocrisy is "colossal"

June 24, 2005

Albany- Phoebe Putney Hospital administrators admit they will have to pay back thousands of dollars in expenses they ran up on overseas trips. The not for profit hospital had reimbursed hospital execs for extravagant expenses, against hospital policy.

Now, a Phoebe Doctor and critic is calling for Administrator Joel Wernick's resignation, again, and says more investigation needs to be done into these trips abroad.

This week, the public got a glimpse into the world of a the big brass at the Hospital with a Heart. Phoebe Putney hot shots' trip to London shows hospital execs smoking $300 worth of cigars, drinking $2,500 worth of booze and bunking in rooms that cost $570 a night.

Dr. John Bagnato said, "I think we have really, really bad wrong doing going on here. Probably illegal."

It was a trip for Grove Point, an insurance business the hospital set up in the Cayman Islands. In addition to the thousands they spent on food, alcohol and tobacco, their rooms at the Ritz Carlton cost more than $32,000. With airfare, $50,000, all paid for by Phoebe Putney Hospital.

Bagnato said, "They could have gotten a quote from their re-insurance from Lloyd's of London from Atlanta. The Atlanta people would have come down here."

During the five day trip, records say Phoebe executives met twice for one half day.

Wednesday, Phoebe Chief Financial Officer Kerry Loudermilk defended the frequent trips. "We're required legally to conduct all Grove Point business off shore."

But the man Phoebe hired to set up the Grove Point company says Phoebe can do all its meetings in Albany, and then have the manager on staff in the Caymans handle formal filings. "The reason they are off shore, is it gives them a slush fund. An opportunity to spend money behind closed doors. And that's what's going on," Dr. Bagnato said.

Complaints of the lavish Caribbean trips have swirled around Phoebe for years, and the board has until now denied them. Loudermilk admitted he was aware of the travel expense policy, and still OK'ed the hospital paying the executives bills.

"That's just the tip of the iceberg," Bagnato said. "They actually took six to eight trips a year. We have receipts from the Cayman Islands one month apart. Going to Bermuda monthly."

Dr. Bagnato says the hypocrisy is colossal. "They are jet setting around the globe like fat cats, while people in Dougherty County are being overcharged and then bankrupted."

Dr. Bagnato, through the medical staff, has called for Administrator Joel Wernick's resignation before, and repeats it today. "The classy thing to do would be for Mr. Wernick to tender his resignation, and take Mr. Loudermilk with him."

Dr. Bagnato says the hospital board is supposed to oversee the Administrators and their activities. But he says many of the board members have gone along on these trips at hospital expense, and are complicit in them.

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