We are not ready in so many ways.
Given that the Zika virus and the mosquitoes that carry it from one human to another have been advancing north from South America through the Caribbean and Mexico, and that parts of the USA share the same permissive semi-tropical environments necessary for the disease to spread, most public health scientists and officials have assumed that home-grown Zika disease and its sequela would show up in the course of time. Officials in North Miami, Florida believe that time has come. Even with all the warning in the world, Congress could not be persuaded to act before leaving Washington for vacation. Imagine, public health being sacrificed at the altar of political control and the national shackling of anything having to do with women’s health policy to a self-defined pro-life lobby and the religious dogma that supports it. The failure to prepare now, as it has been in the past, is all about control of the levers of power that drives political life.
People, including pregnant women who have contracted Zika virus, have been present in the USA for some time, having caught the disease while traveling abroad in endemic areas, or having acquired the disease sexually from partners who did the traveling for them. (Yes, Zeka is also a sexually-transmitted disease.) Since the virus can linger for months in various places within the human body, we can assume that transfer of the disease by nonsexual intimate contact or exposure to body fluids is also possible. Blood donors in parts of Florida are already being told not to do so, and testing of donated blood for the virus more broadly is being advocated. It is likely that Zika is here to stay for a while, if not forever. “So what?” you may ask. Continue reading “They’re Here! Zika-bearing Mosquitoes now present in USA.”
Old habits die hard.
For those hoping for a “fresh start” at the University of Louisville, last Wednesday’s Board of Trustees meeting must have been more than a little disappointing. Earlier in the day, the Attorney General requested that the Board take no actions with long-term consequences until the matter of the legality of its appointment process is adjudicated by the courts. The day before the meeting, one of the newly appointed trustees resigned, presumably because his public statements about science, religion, and minorities generated too much public opposition – in my opinion a failure of the vetting process. He was replaced by another nominee from the list of 30 generated by the Governor’s Postsecondary Education Nominating Committee who also happens to be a partner in the law firm that handles the bulk of the University’s outsourced legal work. The replacement trustee is a well-respected and competent individual, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with attorneys serving on nonprofit boards. However, if I were an attorney seeking some of the University’s business, or a party in opposition to the University in some litigation, I would see such an appointment as more of the inside baseball that is often attributed to UofL. Continue reading “First Meeting of UofL Board. Fresh Start or Not?”
Not just any virus – Worse on the fetus than we thought!
Abortion debate brought to the forefront.
Medical scientists have been racing to understand the epidemic of Zika virus worldwide but particularly, because of the rapidity of spread and the number of persons infected, in the Western Hemisphere. Much is still unknown, there is no effective treatment or vaccine, diagnostic tests are not readily available, and there appear to be substantial’ morbidities to developing fetuses and adults alike. The disease is known to be spread by mosquitoes, through sexual contact, and probably blood transfusion. It is not surprising that concern over Zika virus is changing people’s travel plans including to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is causing aditional and justifiable concern to pregnant women and their partners, especially those without access to contraception or safe abortion. Continue reading “Emerging Research About Zika Virus.”
Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear is taking some heat for not including an African-American among his latest round of appointments to the University of Louisville Board of Trustees. Criticism from the community included claims that by passing over three available African-American nominees for the positions, that the Board was without an African-American member for the first time in many years and in fact violated state law. This is incorrect. The Board currently has as its student representative a female African-American trustee who, if she follows precedent, will not be a potted plant. Nonetheless, attention to the makeup of the Board is a matter that should be of considerable concern to the public. The UofL Board itself has been regularly in the news for some time, and is likely to remain there a good bit longer given rising community concern over University governance (or frequent apparent lack of governance), executive compensation, tuition increases, political contributions by Board members, probation of academic units, lawsuits against major former partners, scandals and outright criminal activities involving a few employees and faculty, high-profile separations or dismissals– including some with golden parachutes and non-disclosure agreements, a troubled partnership with a religious organization that is tearing the downtown medical center apart, or whatever other story-of-the-week keeps the pot of concern bubbling. I confess to helping keep the heat on. Fueled by secrecy and non-stop controversial revelations, our University’s reputation is being damaged. Demands for accountability have past the point that they can be ignored. It is therefore useful to examine how it is that board members of the various state universities and the community and technical colleges are selected. The process is defined in detail by state law but it is obvious to me that existing statutory requirements are being be followed loosely if at all. Let me explain. Continue reading “UofL Board of Trustees Under The Microscope.”
Trustees follow on the heels of accreditation site-visit.
The regularly scheduled June meeting of the UofL Board of Trustees will be held at various locations within the Health Sciences Campus this Thursday, June 4. It promises to be a long and busy session. [Agenda here.] In addition to its usual slate of business, Trustees will hear an update about the partnership with KentuckyOne Health from the CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives, Kevin Lofton. Interspersed with regular sessions will be walking tours to include the cardiovascular services at Jewish Hospital, the Neurorecovery Training Institute at Frazier Rehab, the Level 1 Trauma Center at University Hospital, the Center for Women and Infants within University Hospital, the UofL Healthcare Remote Physician Presence Robot Network, and the recently remodeled instructional facilities at the School of Medicine. I do not expect to see the same fireworks launched as at the May meeting, but who would have predicted then! Anything can happen.
LCME Accreditation Site visit.
The School of Medicine was visited in May by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the organization sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association that accredits American and Canadian schools of medicine and osteopathy– necessary for these professional schools to grant M.D. or D.O. degrees to their students. This important site visit is the first one following UofL’s School of Medicine being placed on probation last year. I expect that Medical School Dean Tony Ganzel will give an update on what the School had done to respond to the LCME’s concerns, and perhaps something about how the site visit went. I am unaware of the timetable for a final report and decision, but typically please things take several months. It would be nice to get things cleared up before the next application cycle and enrollment. Letters of acceptance have already gone out for next Fall’s entering class. Continue reading “UofL Board of Trustees to Meet at Health Sciences Campus.”
CHI’s report shows immediate favorable impact of acquisitions on current financials. Productivity and sustainability of existing operations harder to ascertain.
Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), the parent company of KentuckyOne Health, released its most recent quarterly financial report earlier this month covering the three months ending December 31, 2014. The company’s press release stressed “improved second-quarter financial results as the organization continues a comprehensive program of operational improvement, revenue enhancements and strategic expansion in key markets.” Raw earnings in this second quarter were $290.5 million compared to $132.1 million in the same quarter a year earlier. Operating income moved into the black following the losses of the first quarter. These gains were attributed to “additional business acquisitions, clinical and operational improvements as well as other internal cost-saving programs to reduce expenses.” However, these “turnaround” earnings are entered before being reduced by a variety of adjustments including interest, depreciation, amortization, business combination gains, and “restructuring.” This makes it difficult for the uninitiated such as myself to judge whether this apparent reversal of fortune represents on-the-ground improvement in existing competitive markets, or the untested effects of an expanding acquisition bubble. The bond market that supports the considerable debt of the organization, and CHI’s continuing success in a rapidly changing healthcare environment will provide a more definitive judgment. The full report is available here. Continue reading “Catholic Health Initiative 2d Quarter Report Showing Better Numbers.”
Andrew Wolfson of the Courier-Journal has already reported on Wednesday’s meeting of UofL’s Faculty Senate. I was there to as a member of the Executive Faculty and want to add my comments. The Faculty Senate has elected members from every school and college and is the faculty body of highest jurisdiction. I represented the School of Medicine on the Senate for a number of years.
The principal item on the agenda of interest to me was a discussion item labeled “Foundation compensation.” Although the intention of the Senate Chairperson was to limit discussion to the deferred compensation of the President, Provost, and the President’s Chief of Staff; subsequent discussion by the faculty expanded that focus to include the separation payments made last year to at least three other senior University officers and vice-presidents that were accompanied by controversial agreements of nondisclosure. The discussion opened an obvious can of worms. Mr. Wolfson by no means overstated the degree of faculty concern. Not a single faculty member expressed support for what the University and the University of Louisville Foundation were doing. Continue reading “UofL Faculty Senate Voices Harsh Criticism of Executive Bonuses.”
There is no longer any doubt in my mind that the unscheduled executive session tacked on at the end of the February University of Louisville Board meeting was called to deal with the matters of the firing of Vice President for Human Relations Sam Connally and the allegations he brought to the attention of the Board members. As reported earlier today by Insider Louisville, the Courier Journal, and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, Mr. Connally filed a not-unexpected lawsuit yesterday against the Board of Trustees as agents of the University. A quick trip downtown yielded a copy of the complaint. It makes for interesting reading and provides more detail than a previous letter by Connally to the Courier Journal published elsewhere and which found its way to the UofL Trustees before their meeting.
Somewhere in this article I need to make the appropriate comment that any such complaint tells only one side of the story– a fact readily acknowledged by Mr. Connally. However, in this case, we have a pretty good idea what the University will say in the form of the investigation prepared on its behalf by its outside attorney. I read that report and also the 100 pages of supporting documents. It covers the same basic set of events as Connally’s complaint with a different spin indeed. There are obviously matters of fact and interpretation to be worked through. Win or lose, in my opinion and based on documents I have seen, UofL is not going to come out of this looking very good. Continue reading “Former UofL Vice-President Files Whistleblower Complaint Against UofL.”
Last December I wrote a follow-up story about the firing of UofL Vice President for Human Resources, Sam Connally, allegedly over his complaint of misconduct against Provost Shirley Willihnganz. These related to manipulation of the state Request For Proposal (RFP) purchasing process seeking a new health-plan manager for the University’s self-funded employee heath insurance benefit with a goal of obtaining a possible additional multi-million dollar gift from Humana, and also inappropriate Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filings. The University hired an outside attorney to investigate who determined that there was no merit to Mr. Connally’s claims.
In my mind, when you hire a lawyer, the expectation is that the best argument in favor of your position will result. A truly independent investigation would be paid for by someone else. I was reminded of UofL President Ramsey’s default response when confronted by numerous accusations of misconduct against former School of Education Dean Robert Felner by characterizing them as “anonymous c**p.” (Dr. Feller subsequently went to jail.) In my first article, I asked for a truly independent outside audit perhaps by State Auditor Edelen, and also asked the Board of Trustees to do their duty. On the basis of the investigation and the recommendation of University administration, the Board approved the firing of Connally. Continue reading “UofL Firing of Vice President Sam Connally. Will The Truth Emerge?”
An involuntary separation turns ugly.
Things lay quiet following a pair of stories on December 4 in the Courier-Journal and the Louisville Cardinal about the firing of University of Louisville Vice President for Human Resources, Sam Connally. As was to be expected, the University had little to say about such “personnel” matters other than than the “separation did not involve suspected illegal conduct” on the part of Mr. Connally. Naturally many heads turned given the background of separation or retirement of several other University executives in 2013, and of UofL’s corporate attorney in April 2014. These very high ranking University officers were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for signing non-disclosure/non-disparagement agreements. Those agreements were considered unusual for a public institution and raised suspicions among the public that there was something to hide. Mr. Connally provided the voice of the University defending those agreements. Because there is ample evidence– documented in this series of articles over the last two years– that UofL plays fast and loose with rules, I too was concerned that there was more going on than meets the eye. Continue reading “Firing of a UofL Vice President— Further Revelations.”