Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tweeding involved in Wyckoff mess

From the NY Times:

In recent years, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn has often gone hat in hand to the city and state, lamenting cuts in government assistance and questioning whether officials truly understood the burden of running a nonprofit hospital in Bushwick, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

For much of that time, Wyckoff’s chief executive was driving to work in a Bentley Continental GT, a $160,000 automobile, and at one point, the hospital paid thousands of dollars to insure the vehicle, according to hospital records and interviews. When the chief executive lost his license after an accident, hospital security guards chauffeured him and his wife around the clock in a Cadillac Escalade or a Lincoln Town Car.

The chief executive, Rajiv Garg, was not the only one who benefited from his ties with Wyckoff. One member of the hospital’s board obtained for the pharmacy that he owned the exclusive right to market prescription drugs to hospital patients. Another board member lent $2.4 million to the ailing Wyckoff at 12 percent interest, with the hospital required to put up several of its buildings as security.

Local politicians also joined in. Allies of United States Representative Edolphus Towns, Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez and Councilman Erik Martin Dilan have landed high-level positions at the hospital, despite questionable qualifications, further weakening its management. Mr. Dilan’s wife became the hospital’s director of public relations.

Many hospitals in downtrodden areas of New York City and across the state are faltering, raising concerns that a wave of closings will deprive poor people of badly needed care.

A three-month investigation by The New York Times into Wyckoff, based on dozens of interviews and an examination of internal documents, offers a sobering portrait of how one such hospital has been undermined by the very people entrusted to run it.