Saint John's Alleges Fraud, Bribery in 'Costly Nurses Saga'

The Santa Monica hospital is headed to court after reportedly paying an overseas recruiter more than half a million dollars for nurses who never arrived, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Saint John's Health Center is suing a recruiter in England after paying nearly $700,000 for nurses who never arrived to the Santa Monica hospital, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The hospital alleges it was the victim of fraud, bribery and unfair business practices," the Times reported, and "accuses the recruiter, Lisa Taylor, of paying about $128,000 in bribes to Victor Melendez, the hospital's former vice president of human resources."

The Times reported "there's no indication that this nurse-recruitment saga" triggered the recent firing of the hospital's former top two administrators, chief executive Lou Lazatin and chief operating officer Eleanor Ramirez, and a majority of its board of directors.

But the trial, which is scheduled to start in February, may reveal "unflattering details about the inner workings of one of the area's best-known hospitals," according to the Times.

"Taylor wants the two former [Saint John's] executives to testify in this case and explain their departure," the newspaper reported.

For the full story, click over to the Los Angeles Times.


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Gregg Heacock January 29, 2013 at 04:23 PM
One irony in this story is that Saint John's was paying nurses $10 less an hour than other hospitals in the area and was aggressively fighting efforts by their nurses to unionize in order to improve work conditions and gain parity in pay. Too much money was spent in Saint John's effort to provide healthcare on the cheap. Another irony is that the CEO, whose salary surpassed that of others heading hospitals in the area, and those on the Board of Directors, were removed after failing to subvert the successful unionization of Saints John's nursing and support staff. Now, in the midst of losing their parking agreement for nurses with The Colorado Center, they have put themselves back in headlines with a suit that may cause them more PR damage than what they might be awarded if they win. What goes around comes around until people become conscious of the effect their actions have on their own suffering. Some think that irony is God's way of playing "Gotcha!" We who know this story can only stand back in wonder.
Bruce Campbell January 29, 2013 at 07:22 PM
So nurses who trained in the USA aren't sufficient for St. John's who will royally pay recruiters (to exploit some from overseas), but pay nurses significantly less than any other hospital in the area. Oh yes, and don't forget the failure to build a parking lot related to their significant expansion. Does this sort of greed and corruption come with the territory of an investor-owned hospital, or does some of it emanate from the historic corruption related to the Vatican?
Gregg Heacock January 29, 2013 at 09:10 PM
Running a non-profit hospital involves more financial risk. Kaiser has pre-paid subscribers, but Saint John's has to attract people, usually those who have a serious reason for going to a hospital and have coverage with Blue Cross or whatever else does not limit their choice–including no insurance at all. As for your point about the Vatican, the timing could not be worse. Beyond that, I could not say. It is just that Catholic hospitals started in the mid-west during the mid-1800's, serving people of various ethnicities settling west of the Mississippi. They relied on donations for their survival. People would leave them money in their wills or famous people would make huge contributions, giving credit to themselves and the hospital. I suspect with changes on the healthcare horizon, fewer donations have been forthcoming. Ironically, Obamacare might be their salvation. The question is whether they can hold on that long. Funny how history changes the circumstances affecting our survival and that of institutions. Some might say the world is perfect because eventually it reveals the truth that is often hidden. Put another way, drama is about the chickens coming home to roost. Saint John's is going through a dramatic time in which much is being revealed about it and our health care system. If health care costs so much, why is Saint John's in so much trouble? And what does this say about the cost of universal health care?
Brenda Barnes January 30, 2013 at 12:53 AM
$700,000 is only 70,000 hours at $10 more an hour, less than 40 nurses for a year, so St. John's was obviously trying to "outsource" nurses from England to fatten their own bottom line and avoid paying American nurses what they are worth. My husband spent less than 24 hours there whereupon he was booted out because he had no insurance at the time, and the bill was $12,000. How sad such a hospital won't pay its nurses properly without force.
Toni Jackson-Walker February 28, 2013 at 07:43 PM
OMG. That is why it pays to do your research. I had major surgery at St. John's this month and had I known of all the operating problems and such, I would have gone to UCLA. The day after my surgery, a nurse left me in the restroom without seeing if I was ok, to go see about her other patients. As a general rule, I saw the CNA once in the morning and that was it, with the exception of one remarkable CNA. My doctor left orders for me that a nurse did not follow up on, and another nurse came to my room door and confronted a nurse about a patient violating confidentiality, On one occasion, I requested pain medication @ 9am and it was 10am bfore I received it because the nurse claimed she had togoto the other side of the building. There was more but I am sure I am going to have to relive that nightmare several more times. The irony is that my night time staff was remarkable, but the day shift sucked. Perhaps, the fact that these nurses are compensated than other nurses in the area contributes to their competence, confidence, and work ethic.
Harry Chauncy February 28, 2013 at 11:56 PM
For anyone who has an interest in the subject of the hospital business practices recommend the exhaustive (longest in Time history) piece by Steven Brill in the current issue of Time. It gives an eye-opening view of how hospitals, including so-called non-profits make inordinate profits because they do not exist in a true competitive market place (ever want to or try to compare prices when you are sick?) and make it an obsession to charge the most the traffic will bear. Everybody pays a different price and the poor pay more. The hospital wheeling and dealing makes car-selling look like church. Their so-called charity giving is an inflated sham skewed to make them look better than they are. Hospital administrators, as well as medical device makers and pharmaceutical companies out wall-street Wall Street. Good luck getting ahead of the line of lobbyists in Washington who perpetuate the situation.


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