BCHF: New Challenges Ahead
Last updated 6/7/2021 at 8:31am
People ask what’s happening with the FBI/DOJ investigation into Borrego Health, and wonder why there’s no news in the paper? The answer: It’s an investigation. The FBI and DOJ don’t share information on investigations that might compromise the court case, or prejudice an individual’s right to a fair trial.
In addition to inquiries, the Borrego Sun receives tips, rumors and second hand information regarding the investigation. However, a factual confirmation is needed from Borrego Health, or the regulators, before printing. And acquiring meaningful responses about the impact of the investigation on the organization has been impossible in the past. The Sun is hoping the changes in leadership will make a difference in transparency, where answers don’t pose a conflict of interest.
According to FBI sources, these investigations take an average of two years, sometimes longer. As previously reported, the California Department of Health Care Services (CDHCS) has placed an outside monitoring firm in the organization to oversee compliance to state and federal rules and regulations, as well as enforce changes imposed as a result of the investigation.
The independent monitors also have the authority to fire personnel and make structural changes to help clean up the financial situation left in the wake of alleged fraudulent practices and abuse of state and federal health care funds. There have been a number of changes at the administration level and the Sun is hopeful that Borrego Health’s new officers will see the value of open communication, and update the community on high level staff changes. Even though Borrego Health officials choose not to confirm that there’s a new Chief Financial Officer, the Sun has confirmed that Sergio Bautista has replaced Diana Thompson.
Among the changes, Borrego Health is dropping financial and management support for the Frugal Coyote, the Child Care Center, and Mountain View Cottages, assisted living residential homes. Borrego Health is currently seeking other non-profits to take these over. No official word on takers, but Borrego being Borrego, people are stepping up to see what can be done. One obstacle is the Child Care Center’s apparent $750,000 deficit.
Borrego Health’s New Officers: Borrego Health Board of Trustees has also made changes. According to a press release provided to the Sun on April 29, the Borrego Community Health Foundation board held its annual meeting, and elected former vice chair, Sandra Hansberger, to replace Dan Anderson, as chair of the Board of Trustees. Anderson, having completed his two-year term as chairman, will remain on the board’s Executive Committee. An additional Trustee, Fred Figuero, from Coachella Valley, was also approved at the annual meeting. Figuero has a Master’s degree in Public Administration, and was previously employed by the University of California, and currently serves on the Coachella Valley Community Services District.
According to the BCHF website, Hansberger’s background and experience includes, “30 years advocating on behalf of low-income individuals and families – as a supervising attorney, clinical law professor, and most recently, as an executive director of an Oregon statewide non-profit. Her work has focused on providing access to justice in areas such as housing, food security, medical care, and safety from domestic violence.
“Ms. Hansberger has served, and continues to serve, on a number of non-profit boards and commissions. She has received recognition from Oregon Women Lawyers, the Multnomah Bar Association, and from the Oregon State Bar, including its highest honor, the Award of Merit (2016). She has spent an increasing amount of time in Borrego Springs over the past 30 years and she works closely with the Borrego Springs Boys and Girls Club.”
As a public, tax-payer funded, entity, Borrego Health has a legal obligation to be fiscally transparent and forthcoming with the community. The two people with a spokesperson’s responsibility are currently CEO Dr. Edgar Bulloch and Dan Anderson, until July 1.
Hansberger, as the new chair has agreed to a more open and consistent line of communication, and an interview to present the board’s perspective after she takes office, July 1, 2021. The interim CEO, and CMO, Dr. Bulloch, has got to be a very busy man given all that’s on his plate. However, he has set a new and welcome precedent of communication with the Borrego Sun.
At the heart of the investigation is the fact that officers, and some board members, not only failed to report or stop the organization’s illegal operations, but secretly supported former CEO, the late Bruce Hebets’ multiple fiscal cons. The new BCHF IRS-990 report is due soon, and it will be interesting to see how, and if, the investigation and leadership changes have affected Borrego Health operations. Note: The Borrego Health IRS-990 report is intended to be a public document. However, public access in the past has required complicated internet searches, or a call to former, CFO Diana Thompson, for permission to release guarded copies from her desk.
On the News Front: Borrego Health has experienced a data breach. Information on what transpired and steps patients or anyone that shared private personal information with the clinic should take, is available on Borrego Health webpage, in both Spanish and English. Go to: http://www.borregohealth.org.
According to Dr. Bulloch, the breach, “was actually with Healthcare Partners, a clinic consortium that we belong to. The announcement was prepared by their legal team, and Borrego Health has notified all affected patients.”
The California Department of Public Health treats a data breach seriously, requiring notice to patients and public disclosure. Failure to meet safety data standards is often caused for a significant monetary fine.
Borrego Health Receives Biggest Grant in California: As previously announced, Borrego Health was named as one of the 1,300 community clinics to get a direct COVID-19 grant from the Biden Administration for outreach in rural communities with high Hispanic, elderly and low-income populations.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, recently awarded a historical $6 Billion to 1,376 Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).
In California, a total of $993 million was awarded to 175 health centers. At $37 million, Borrego Health is the state’s highest award of the grant, with a total of $37MM (or four percent) of available state grants.
Dr. Bulloch notes, “The grant funds (to Borrego Health) will be directed to expand COVID-19 vaccinations and testing for vulnerable populations. It will allow us to continue to deliver preventative and primary care services to people at higher risk of COVID-19.
“The extra monies will also allow us to expand our operational capacity during the pandemic and beyond, like improving and updating medical equipment throughout our organization.
“We have taken an inventory of current equipment and supplies in all of our clinics, including Borrego Medical Clinic. Each clinic has submitted a list of items that it would like to have replaced or purchased if not available. We are really excited about how these funds will be invested directly back into the clinic.”
And the Sun will be happy to list the much-needed new medical equipment when it arrives at the Borrego Springs clinic.
Problems with Dental Prescription Refills: Some readers reported problems with Medicaid and Cal-Dental prescriptions at the Borrego Health pharmacy. When asked about the policy regarding dental services, Dr. Bulloch stated, “The Borrego pharmacy is able to accept prescriptions from any licensed provider that is able to write prescriptions. The provider does not have to be a Borrego employed physician or dentist.”
He asked any patient that may have been turned away and should contact his office so he can research the details.
In addition to developing and mailing a brochure specifically for the Hispanic Community about the clinic’s services, Dr. Bulloch expressed interest in holding future focus groups with the community to pinpoint concerns and needs.
Vaccinations: Borrego Health reports that it has dispensed 16,005 vaccines to date, with 7,212 of those being fully vaccinated patients.
“In Borrego Springs, we have administered 1,059 vaccines and are currently looking into getting the Pfizer vaccine as it has a new indication for adolescents 12 and up. The Pfizer vaccine does require special ultra-low temperature freezers, so it is a bit more complex of an undertaking, but certainly not one we are averse to.
“I think it would be great to host a vaccination event at the high school when it becomes available,” Dr. Bulloch added.