American Indian leaders question hospital administrator

Saturday, May 25th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LAWTON, Okla. (AP) _ Officials from seven American Indian tribes are investigating whether Lawton Indian Hospital is millions of dollars in debt.

Tribal leaders of the Apache, Caddo, Comanche, Delaware, Fort Sill-Apache, Kiowa and Wichita Indians questioned the hospital's administrator during a private meeting Friday, The Oklahoman reported.

A member of each tribe sits on the hospital's board, which has proposed to fire administrator Gary Davis, health administrator Fred Koebrick and Anadarko clinic administrator Bob Pipe. The board plans to vote on the terminations next week.

``I have had to do a lot of research on my own to find out what has been happening,'' said Billy Evans Horse, chairman of the Kiowas. ``We have a lot of questions. That's why were here.''

Wichita Tribe President Gary McAdams said the hospital _ which serves 80,000 Indians in a 10-county area _ is facing a deficit crisis.

McAdams ordered the hospital administrator to produce financial documents, including total revenue collected by Medicare and Medicaid, billings and the 2001 budget.

Carol Shelton, who worked in the hospital's finance office until Davis put her on administrative leave, said she was ordered on several occasions to shred billing documents instead of mailing them to customers. Shelton said she was ordered to destroy more than $1 million worth of bills rolled over or rejected by various insurance companies.

Some of the shredding occurred as recently as March 20, she said.

``I was ordered to do what I was told and shut up,'' Shelton said.

Horse has the March 20 shredded billings, said Shan Gachot, a liaison to the hospital board on Horse's behalf. Gachot said the shredded bills were stuffed in a plastic bag that he retrieved from a hospital trash bin after getting a tip from Shelton.

In a letter to the U.S. Interior Department, hospital board Chairwoman Ruey Darrow asks the government for an additional $10.8 million to pull the hospital out of debt. The letter, obtained by The Oklahoman, says the hospital is suffering from a severe shortage of resources.

Gachot said the Interior Department should not bail out the hospital unless the management problems are corrected.

``That's not going to fix the problem,'' he said. ``That money is only going to be sucked down a black hole.''