The territorial hospital board announced it has ousted Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital Chief Executive Officer Wanda Ruben and Chief Financial Officer Deepak Bansal, in a terse, explanation-free release Friday.
“The Executive Committee of the Territorial Board has decided to not renew the contracts of the CEO and CFO of JFL,” the statement reads.
The territorial board appointed Dyma Williams, the current compliance officer and risk manager, to serve as acting CEO. It named Angeline Ravariere as acting chief operating officer and Shenel Moorehead as acting CFO.
The board plans to hire a consulting firm to help with interim leadership and oversee recovery efforts at the hospital. That action will be continged on action before the Senate to merge the territory’s two hospitals, the board’s statement reads. Legislation before the senate seeks to join the two hospitals under unified management, to save money and coordinate services.
While no explanation was given, at a recent budget hearing, senators raised concerns over the possible loss of potentially millions of dollars in federal Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements due to credentialing issues at the hospital.
At the July 23 hearing, Bansal told senators some JFL physicians were not properly credentialed as required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and as a result the hospital lost millions in CMS reimbursements. They corrected the issue but CMS will only allow them to go back 30 days from the credentialing for billing so some of the money may be lost, Bansal said.
Sen. Kurt Vialet, the Finance Committee chair, pointed out the loss is all the worse because the federal government was temporarily allowing the territory to access all of the available Medicare dollars without any local matching funds.
“You lost millions and millions of dollars. We have a unique situation where we can be reimbursed 100 per cent,” Vialet said.
Ruben blamed the hospital’s previous administration for the hospital’s financial crisis, alluding to the possibility of criminal charges.
These new developments continue several years of turmoil in the management of JFL. Williams is the hospital’s seventh CEO since 2010. It has been starved for funding and struggling to pay – or failing to pay – its bills for a much longer period.
Before Ruben, attorney Richard Evangelista, served as interim head for a little over a year. Before Evangelista, Ken Okolo was removed in May 2016 after only serving six months, in the midst of a scandal over questionable bonuses to himself and another officer that were never approved by the hospital’s governing board.
Okolo had replaced Dr. Kendall Griffith, who served from 2013 to 2015. Griffin, with support from several V.I. senators, forced out several members of his own hospital oversight board, destroying its quorum and making it unable to meet. He fired the entire financial management team and presided over the hospital being temporarily decertified by CMS. In its report CMS repeatedly cited the lack of oversight by the JFL board.
Griffith replaced CEO Jeff Nelson, who was hired in 2011 with a mandate from the board to take painful measures to turn around the finances of the fiscally challenged hospital. Sen. Alicia Hansen and other senators got involved and helped force Nelson out and bring in Griffith, after Nelson took unoopular measures aimed at turning around the hospital’s finances. (See “Hansen, Griffith to Blame for the JFL Decertification,” in Related Links below.) Nelson replaced Darice Plaskett, who served in an acting capacity for two and a half years after Gregory Calliste resigned in 2009.