Vinita is stupid to keep Mercy Ambulance

Vinita is stupid to keep Mercy Ambulance

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Mercy

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#1 Apr 4, 2008
QUESTIONS SURROUNDING MERCY CONTINUE
By CHRIS EDENS and JOHN M. WYLIE II
Leader Writers

Questions concerning the financial stability of Mercy Ambulance continued to mount this week.

Mercy provides ambulance service to Craig County, Stroud, Fairfax and Cleveland.

Mercy’s founder and President Clayton W. Hobbs has been hit with a 24-count federal indictment and a six-count federal civil claim in Illinois alleging fraud and false claims to Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Administration.

Officials of Mercy’s Oklahoma operation have missed repeated deadlines set by the Oklahoma State Department of Health to provide documentation proving that the Oklahoma operation is completely separate from and unaffected by the Illinois operations.

“We’ve been assured that by tomorrow morning (Wednesday, March 26) we will receive a business plan establishing Mercy Regional’s capacity to operate for at least a year as required by rule and we look forward to reviewing it,” said Shawn Rogers, Emergency Medical Director for the Department of Health.

However, Mercy’s Illinois operations have been placed in the hands of a federal receiver who, according to the order issued by U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan,“shall have full control and authority over the business operations of Mercy…including exclusive control of all bank accounts…payments…(and) all assets including vehicles and equipment purchased by or paid by Mercy.”

In a separate order, Judge Reagan released six banks from an earlier restraining order, saying the receivership provided all needed protection for Mercy assets that may be forfeited under the civil or criminal proceedings. One of the banks named is RCB, which a Mercy Oklahoma spokesman acknowledged last week was a depository for the Oklahoma operation.

That spokesman also acknowledged that the Oklahoma operation’s dispatch center in Owasso used the same equipment to dispatch ambulances in both Oklahoma and Illinois.

The civil complaint alleges that Hobbs and Mercy’s Illinois operations illegally obtained payments and failed to pay federal taxes and social security on employees.

The status of Mercy Oklahoma is important for two reasons:

* Each of its Oklahoma operations receives subsidies from taxpayers.

* If it were to suddenly cease operations, the ripple effect could impact ambulance service across much of Green County, including OTEMS and Pafford in Rogers County.

On the second count, the receivership may be a blessing. Receiver Carolyn Luster’s charge is to keep the ambulance service operating.

Judge Reagan’s order also apparently goes further than Mercy Oklahoma has gone by barring Hobbs from any business control of or remuneration from Mercy.

The Oklahoma operation said Hobbs was on leave from his executive position but remained a stockholder in the parent corporation.

Hobbs has not returned messages left on his answering machine. A spokesman had promised last week to provide access to other Mercy executives to provide detailed answer about information in court files which he said had left him “dumbfounded.” However, those executives have never made contact with the Leader.

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