If any of what the Star says in its editorial was remotely true, then why hasn't the hospital been cited for all sorts of public health violations? After all, isn't it the job of the Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County to do just that? Perhaps the conditions the Star describes in its editorial don't represent public health violations. I see nothing in the editorial about how the hospital just got through spending tens of millions renovating its operating rooms. What about the renovated rooms for patients? No, nothing in there about that. I see nothing explaining how the hospital managed to obtain full accreditation from the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Hospitals. Not bad for a building in such a state of disrepair, eh?
It's bad enough that the newspaper's editors insist on misrepresenting everything about this proposed referendum, but it's even worse when its news reporters deliberately mislead Star readers in their news reports. Let's take a look at a story business columnist Dan Lee logged today on the referendum. "Wishard ballot issue lures vocal allies," the headline reads. And just as the headline indicated, Lee decided to park his journalistic integrity at the door when he wrote this story. Despite Lee's tough questioning of Gutwein during a recent interview, which raised serious questions deserving of further in-depth reporting by Lee, none of those tough questions were addressed in Lee's story. Instead, he provides a sappy story about how IMPD officer Jason Fishburn, the police officer shot in the head last year and successfully treated at Wishard, and his father, Dennis Fishburn, also an IMPD police officer, are serving as co-chairs for a PAC promoting passage of the referendum. Forget any discussion of the propriety of city police officers being allowed to use their city positions to lobby for passage of what may turn out to be the biggest property tax increase in Marion County history. Lee writes:
Dennis Fishburn stood before a room full of pastors last week at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church on the Eastside and preached about his support of the proposed $754 million Wishard Memorial Hospital building project.There is a bit of humor in Lee's story. "Health and Hospital Corp. Chief Executive Officer Matt Gutwein and Wishard Health Services CEO Dr. Lisa Harris say they are not personally urging people to vote "yes" -- which state law prohibits them from doing," Lee writes. "But the pair speak about the need to replace Wishard's aging buildings," he continues. "They also have repeatedly said the new hospital can be built without using any additional property tax funds." Say what? Are your ears burning as much as mine? Lee goes on to describe all of the public appearances the two have made over the past several months:
He recalled the horror of receiving the news in July 2008 that his son, Indianapolis police officer Jason Fishburn, had been shot in the head during a foot chase. He spoke of his own faith and thanked those in the room for their prayers . . .
Dennis Fishburn, 56, and Jason Fishburn, 30, are co-chairs of Citizens for Wishard, a recently formed political action committee working to persuade Marion County residents to approve the project.
"Wishard Hospital absolutely saved my son's life," said Fishburn, speaking after his presentation to about 100 people last week at a meeting of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance. "We want to pay it forward."
Citizens for Wishard is using classic campaign tactics such as community meetings as well as social-networking tools such as Twitter to gain support.
The group has an e-mail list of about 1,000 local residents who now receive regular updates, such as links to news coverage on the Wishard project and information on early voting, according to Susan Becker, community outreach manager for Citizens for Wishard.
Before the campaign ends, Gutwein will have spoken to more than 70 organizations, including churches, civic groups and public hearings on Wishard's building plans. He's also part of a media blitz that hit local TV and radio shows such as Greg Garrison on WIBC-FM (93.1); Amos Brown on WTLC-AM (1310) and Abdul in the Morning on WXNT-AM (1430).If you hang on long enough and don't tear your newspaper to shreds in anger, you'll find a small mention of small opposition to the greatest thing since moms and apple pie. Lee writes:
Gutwein's speaking agenda for this week includes talks with the League of Women Voters, the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association, the Far Eastside Neighborhood Association, the Pike Neighborhood Association and the Reagan Park Community Action Group.
Others, though, question whether Health and Hospital Corp. will be able to pay off debt from the project without having to tap into additional tax funds.Lee completely ignored the analysis that Moldthan has performed of the hospital's Medicaid reimbursements, which affirmatively establishes the fact that the HHC is defrauding the federal government with its nursing home billing scheme. A former HHC CEO and former FSSA Secretary, Mitch Roob, has described the scheme as "a bit of a scam" on the federal government. He predicted it would eventually get his former employer in trouble with the federal government. It's those very revenues that HHC is relying upon to pay for construction of the new hospital. Despite their claims to the contrary, these revenues are not deemed reliable enough to back revenue bonds. Accordingly, the HHC is proposing to issue more than $700 million in general obligation bonds that will be backed by property tax revenues as high as $54 million a year to ensure repayment of the bonds. You'll find none of that information in the bond referendum question you will be asked to answer on November 3 because it doesn't even tell you that a new hospital is being proposed, let alone how much it plans to borrow and how it will repay the borrowed money.
"I just didn't see them making that kind of money," said Carl Moldthan, an Indianapolis resident who described himself as a taxpayer advocate.
Moldthan said Health and Hospital Corp. is depending too heavily on the extra income Wishard receives from Medicaid for its sizable nursing home business. That premium revenue, Moldthan maintains, could be in jeopardy if the government reimbursement policy changes.
On another subject, some of you have been complaining about how Greg Garrison has been an outspoken proponent of the Wishard referendum and is not allowing any balanced discussion of the issue on his show. This should come as no surprise. You may recall that Garrison, despite his claim to be a fiscal conservative, advocated for the passage of the recent $27 million tax, spend and borrow bailout of the CIB. Garrison refused to allow anyone opposing that plan to speak on his show. Garrison has added reason to disallow fair and balanced coverage of the Wishard referendum on his show. It turns out his wife, Phyllis Garrison, is employed as a Privacy Officer for the HHC earning $75,000 a year. I also learned from a public records request that Indianapolis Taxpayers PAC Chairman Carl Moldthan obtained from HHC that State Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis) is earning a whopping $115,000 a year as Vice President of External Affairs for the HHC. That's a surprising amount considering the fact that he spends a great deal of his time performing his state legislative duties. I suspect State Rep. Bill Crawford (D-Indianapolis), who holds a similar job at Ivy Tech, is envious of Porter's pay.