TODAY'S PAPER
64° Good Evening
64° Good Evening
NewsHealth

Stony Brook University Hospital audit says violations cost taxpayers nearly $1M

Stony Brook University Hospital on March 26, 2014.

Stony Brook University Hospital on March 26, 2014. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

The Stony Brook University Hospital department responsible for patient health records has shown a pattern of not complying with contracting and hiring rules, costing taxpayers nearly $1 million, according to a state audit released Tuesday.

The Health Information Management Department, which manages collection, storage and transmission of Stony Brook patient records, awarded a five-year contract to a vendor that wasn't the lowest bidder, as required, for about $955,000 more, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said.

DiNapoli's auditors also found that the department "repeatedly engaged in inappropriate hiring and promotions."

Six of 24 employees audited had "questionable hirings, raises or promotions that were not in compliance with SUNY's Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity requirements," the audit said. In one instance, an employee lacking the required degree or requisite experience was hired and then promoted twice in a year, resulting in a 70 percent salary hike, according to the report.

The audit also found the hospital had not properly monitored outsourcing of medical record transcribing services to make sure they were not handled outside the United States, a requirement to safeguard patient information.

Stony Brook spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow said the university worked closely with the comptroller's office to ensure the hospital was following proper procedures in the contracting process. DiNapoli's office, she said, had full knowledge in May 2010 the low bid had been rejected along with reasons why.

A note to our community:

As a public service, this article is available for all. Newsday readers support our strong local journalism by subscribing.  Please show you value this important work by becoming a subscriber now.

SUBSCRIBE

Cancel anytime

"It is unclear as to why the OSC [Office of State Comptroller] would sign off on the contract in 2010 and find fault with the process in 2014," she said.

"All other matters in the report are being addressed as recommended," she added.

In its formal audit response, the hospital rejected the claim an employee had been improperly hired, saying the worker had completed continuing education courses and has "exhibited continued excellent performance."

The report, covering June 2003 to June 2013, was done after a complaint and was not part of a routine audit, the comptroller's office said.

The Stony Brook department processes about 132,000 medical records and archives more than 1.5 million records each year, the audit said.

The state said CitiStorage of Lindenhurst had submitted a $1.25 million proposal for medical record storage services for 2010-2015. But the department hired SK Archiving in Deer Park at $2.21 million instead.

The audit said the department director "improperly intervened . . . and had exerted significant influence with regard to the rejection of CitiStorage's bid."

Stony Brook said in its response that the director attempted to find out whether CitiStorage could perform adequately, which was "entirely reasonable."

Based on her interviews, the director found CitiStorage wasn't a suitable vendor, but the state, consulting the same sources, concluded otherwise.

The audit said that an employee with a high school diploma and less than five years' experience was hired in January 2004, although the post required a bachelor's in health information management plus two year's experience, or an associate degree and five years' experience. Within a year, the employee had had two raises, to $72,900. Now an associate director, she earns $124,534, according to the report.

The audit also found that the department "has not consistently monitored outsourcing of its transcription and editing services" to ensure they are outsourced only within the United States. The hospital said monitoring resumed in late 2012 and "has continued uninterrupted."

A note to our community:

As a public service, this article is available for all. Newsday readers support our strong local journalism by subscribing.  Please show you value this important work by becoming a subscriber now.

SUBSCRIBE

Cancel anytime

Health