Two members of the Logan County Hospital Board recently asked the hospital’s board of trustees to approve a proposal for a forensic audit of all financial operations, but the proposal was tabled at the Wednesday board meeting.

Nicole Ham and Steve Hampton requested the forensic audit, which is much more detailed than the general audit carried out annually by the hospital, and publicized their concerns in a press release.

“The board (of trustees) reiterated their policy that individual trustees are not to issue press releases,” hospital CEO Shawn Morrow said Thursday. “The board also voted to table the forensic audit discussion. They decided we should wait until our regular audit is complete, and then examine those findings.”

Morrow said he expects the annual audit to be concluded in January or February.

The two board members voiced their concerns because of the recent alleged embezzlement of $190,000 by a hospital staff accountant, Ham said. She said a number of other checks were also missing from the claims list the hospital provided for her review, and she would like to know who has possession of those checks.

A press release from Logan Medical Center on Dec. 22 stated that staff accountant Theresa Mitchell was responsible for stealing checks worth $190,000 between December 2004 and August 2005. “Ms. Mitchell confessed to the thefts and was terminated from employment,” the release stated.

OSBI opened an investigation of the case Dec. 22, but no charges have been filed.

“It will be at least several more weeks before we can get a report to the District Attorney,” said OSBI spokesperson Jessica Brown. “It will probably take a week or so after that for him to decide if charges should be filed, and if so, on whom.”

Ham and Hampton, both new to the nine-member board this year, also introduced a resolution Wednesday requesting a change in procedure for the committee’s executive sessions. That resolution failed, Morrow said.

Ham and Hampton also want an in-depth review of the hospital’s Medicare and Medicaid funds. “Medicare and Medicaid provide 65 percent of the hospital’s annual revenue, and we think a forensic audit would provide more accountability for these funds,” Ham said.

Ham said before Wednesday’s meeting that an investigation would be in the community’s best interest.

“I really believe in transparency in government,” she said, “and because this is a publicly funded hospital, we need to have board members who aren’t afraid to ask questions.”

Hampton agreed. “We just want accountability,” he said. “We want a more in-depth look at the financial dealings.”

The two board members said they hoped a detailed audit would assure citizens that the hospital’s activities are open to scrutiny.

“The public needs to know that their interests are being safeguarded,” Ham said. “The idea is to clear the air and give us a better view of what we’re up against here.”

Morrow said Thursday he had no other comment on the board members’ request for further investigation.

Logan Medical Center is funded by a pubic sales tax revenue of more than $2 million per year, as well as by Medicare and Medicaid funds. The 25-bed facility employs about 150 people, Morrow said.

(Alice Collinsworth may be reached via e-mail at acollinsworth@edmondsun.com.)

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