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Audit probes New Mexico hospital that was overrun by virus

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Audit probes New Mexico hospital that was overrun by virus

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A special audit of management contracts is raising concerns about weak financial controls, executive compensation excesses and potential profiteering at a county-owned hospital on the edge of the Navajo Reservation that became overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state auditor’s office on Tuesday released results for the Rehoboth McKinley Christian hospital in Gallup and its management and service contracts dating to 2016.

The audit delves into a five-year contract for management of the hospital by the company Healthcare Integrity, whose CEO David Conejo came under criticism in public protests in May as the hospital grappled with coronavirus infections among staff. It resorted to transferring acute COVID-19 patients to other hospitals. Conejo was fired by the hospital in June.

The state auditor’s office said the contract with Healthcare Integrity allowed the company to hire hospital executives as its employees, while requiring the hospital to pay their salaries, circumventing effective oversight.

“The hospital’s former CEO had significant influence over the hospital’s operations, while the Healthcare Integrity management contract circumvented internal controls with respect to the hospital’s code of conduct and conflicts of interest policy,” the agency said.

Rehoboth hospital is supported in part by taxpayers through a property tax mil levy that provides about $2.5 million a year, giving the county fiduciary responsibility.

“You just had a complete breakdown in internal controls … which allowed the leadership to take advantage of the people of McKinley County,” State Auditor Brian Colón said in an interview.The audit says that compensation was established for Conejo without indication of approval by the hospital board of trustees, and that annual CEO pay of up to $645,000 may […]

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