Silence Breaks at Tulare Regional as DA Takes Interest

Heath Care Conglomerate Associates (HCCA) is starting to crack.

The once lockstep silence from employees at the company overseeing day-to-day operations at Tulare Regional Medical Center (TRMC) is breaking as it becomes apparent HCCA’s days in charge are numbered.

Rumors are flying, the District Attorney seems to be taking an interest, and if that weren’t enough, an attorney for HCCA promised in court this week a third newly elected new board member for Tulare Local Health Care District (TLHCD) will be seated before the month’s end.

But it’s already too late for HCCA to avoid the interest of the DA’s office.

 

DA Investigation Ongoing

Dr. Frank Macaluso, a one-time member of the Medical Executive Committee (MEC) at Tulare Regional who resigned his position, says he and the DA will be talking about issues relating to operations at TRMC at a meeting scheduled for this week at the DA’s request. While he doesn’t know what investigators wish to ask him, he believes it is not related to the disputed replacement of the former MEC, and perhaps not to any issues already being discussed publicly.

“I have a meeting with the DA’s office on Wednesday. They want to talk to me about Tulare, about the whole situation with HCCA,” Macaluso said. “I don’t know what they want to talk to me about. I think they’re investigating HCCA that doesn’t have anything to do with the other stuff.”

However, testimony Macaluso gave during litigation against HCCA and TLHCD on behalf of the former MEC indicates the doctors staffing the replacement MEC knew there would be repercussions to their actions.

“There is going to be this lawyer and this lawyer, and you know they are going to have all sorts of lawyers in here,” he said during his testimony. “You’ve got, you know, basically I brought up these—you are going to have so many lawyers in this place, you guys won’t know what is going to happen.”

He also told of his fear money earmarked for completion of TRMC’s expansion would be consumed by attorney’s fees, and perhaps the DA’s office wishes to discuss that. Or, it could be the ongoing battle to seat newly elected replacement TLHCD board member Senovia Gutierrez.

“The will of the public is still being denied as far as the board members still being in there,” Macaluso said, adding that he was reluctant to speculate further until after his meeting with the DA.

 

HCCA Employees Jumping Ship

HCCA’s former VP of marketing Kathleen Johnson has already left the company, and it seems others may soon follow. Another high-placed employee, speaking anonymously, said they will leave HCCA within the month, and that individual is already seeking a new job.

“I’d be willing to talk to the DA, if they should call,” the current HCCA employee said.

The employee was unwilling to talk further, fearing reprisal, but is willing to go on the record after resigning. According to the source, HCCA also did all it could to bind its employees hands and shut their mouths.

“I signed at least 25 NDAs (non-disclosure agreements),” the source said.

Samantha Phillips-Bland, HCCA’s VP for ambulatory care services, reached out to newly elected board member Kevin Northcraft via her Facebook account, asking for a meeting with TLHCD board members Northcraft and Michael Jamaica, both of whom ran with the intent of ending HCCA’s association with TLHCD.

Phillips-Bland said she is willing to talk further with members of the TLHCD Board and the DA’s office, though the latter has not contacted her.

“Obviously, as everybody does, we have some concerns,” she said of HCCA’s current executive employees. “Should the DA call me in, certainly they have every right to request an interview.”

Phillips-Bland said she remains willing to answer questions from the TLHCD Board and the DA. She has not decided whether she will stay at HCCA.

“I think those are personal decisions that will be made at the right time,” she said.

 

Mystery Money

Meanwhile, an unusual inventory has rumors flying at TRMC.

Within the last month, “a lot of suits” have been on campus at the Tulare Hospital, and an outside group was brought in to perform an inventory of the hospital’s assets, according to staff members. Those curious about the identity of the inventory team were unable to find out who had hired them and why the inventory was being performed.

While third parties performing inventory counts is not in itself out of the ordinary, the context has raised many eyebrows. Recently, several employees have reported being told of a possible $100 million outside investment in HCCA and TRMC. They described the attitude of HCCA executives as “gleeful.” They passed the information to the press, they said, because any potential investor “should know what they’re getting into.”

 

City Council Considers Audit Request

The Tulare City Council, which last month found itself embroiled in the spill-over from controversy at TLHCD when it addressed limiting the hospital board’s use of the Council Chambers at the Tulare City Library, may ask for a state-level audit of the Hospital District.

During the absence of Mayor Carlton Jones and Councilman David Macedo at the September 5 Council meeting, Councilman Jose Sigala asked the Council to consider contacting the chairman of the State Audit Committee and requesting an audit of both bond spending at TLHCD and of its current operations.

The issue was placed on the agenda for the September 19 meeting.

Both Jones and Vice Mayor Marissa Castellanoz received campaign contributions from HCCA and its CEO Dr. Yorai “Benny” Benzeevi.

That, however, may soon not be necessary. During a court appearance last week, an attorney for HCCA promised the company would no longer challenge the legality of the election of Segovia Gutierrez to the TLHCD Board of Directors. Gutierrez was elected in a recent recall election that removed former TLHCD director Dr. Parmod Kumar.

Gutierrez, the attorney told the presiding judge, would be seated at the Hospital District’s next board meeting on September 27. It remains to be seen if HCCA will honor its word.

In Depth: Tulare Regional Medical Center

44 thoughts on “Silence Breaks at Tulare Regional as DA Takes Interest

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  1. This is good news for the citizens of Tulare who would like a decent hospital.
    By the way, the ER doctors have not been paid for this month (their payment is so far 19 days late) , I wonder how long they will continue to work without getting paid.
    Dr Ostrom, the so called chief of staff and the ER, is refusing to address this issue, sticking by his master Benzeevi to the bitter end. Hopefully when the time comes to pick up the trash, Dr Ostrom is kicked to the curb along with the rest of HCCA garbage.

  2. HCCA will continue to drag their feet when it comes to allowing Ms Gutierrez taking her rightful place on the hospital board of directors. Every day that goes by HCCA (Benzeevi) is pocketing lots of tax payers money. Benzeevi, Kumar, Wilborn and Torres should by investigated by the state and appropriate actions should take place.

    • Five Tulare citizens signed the HCCA contract. Please add their names to the list of people to be investigated. They are:
      Sherrie Bell
      Parmod Kumar
      Richard Torrez
      Laura Gadke
      Rosalinda Avitia

      Avitia chose not to run for reelection, just a few months after the contract was signed. Coincidence???

      • Rosalinda resigned her position after agreeing to whatever HCCA wanted. Up until two weeks before the board was to decide whom to chose, Rosalinda worked for Benzeevi’s company which ran/still runs he emergency room. She quit that job as it would have been a conflict of interest.

  3. Samantha Bland is a nobody. She is not friends with Benny and she does not matter at all. If you mention her name to Benny, he will say “Samantha who?”

    Benny gave her rural clinics to manage and clinics have shrunken by each and every month since she has been here. Staff was replaced by those who would kiss her feet, doctors were discarded like used TP. Now, they have ONE doctor there – Dr Parmod Kumar. Before Samantha, they had dozens of primary care and specialist doctors.

    Samantha will be gone as early as tomorrow. Benny does not give a $h!t for her.

    • Didn’t she come by the way of Alan Germany. She probably wants to protect him and not Benzeevi. Or maybe she is being duped into protecting Kumar, that makes more since. Kumar needs to manipulate someone to deflect away from him.

      It would be interesting to know if Kumar is currently being paid by the District or if he is also behind in reimbursement.

      Hope the DA investigation is really true and they have the intention of really looking into it. Tulare needs this cleaned up.

      • Does it not seem curious to anyone that all other providers have been chased away from Hillman clinic and Dr Parmod Kumar is getting to have all the patients?

        Nice plan Samantha.

    • Benny “gave her rural clinics” but he will say “Samantha who?” Do you see how that’s a contradiction? Ha! It doesn’t matter if he cares about her or not, if she’s willing to talk about what’s really going on… by all means, spill it girl!!! She already has nothing to lose.

      • Samantha was retired when she came to work for HCCA. Alan and Benny BEGGED her to come work for HCCA. I know she’s cleaned up clinics in her career, but she can only do so much with limited resources.

  4. Dr. O’s privileges were taken away at Bakersfield heart hospital for inappropriate behavior (in sexual context).
    Tulare hospital – or should I call it Benny hospital – is the only hospital that will allow him to work.
    He has no choice but to be a lapdog of Benny.

    Tulare hospital and Hillman clinic seem to have only “damaged goods” doctors left there – those who cannot be allowed to work anywhere else. Dr Zulim is same and so is Dr Kang.

    • It’s funny how in one comment you bash a “whistle-blower” and in another comment you threaten doctors. Seems like something Benny himself would do? Thanks for following the news of your own demise.

        • Damaged goods, Dr Ostrom, Zulim, Mackaluso all made backroom deals with Benny and Kumar. They are all trying desparately to save their own skins, but of course. Mackalsuo is especially known to take different sides as it suits him.

  5. Let me be very clear, I am always available to speak to anyone regarding the work at the clinics. This article as written implies that I seek to speak with individuals as if I have some knowledge that isn’t publicly known. That is not the case. Should the DA or Board members wish to speak with me, I am responsive to requests as I would be with any member of the public. Many many times I have personally invited community
    members who have been vocal at Board meetings to come see for themselves the work we do in the
    clinics. None have done so.
    It does not bode well when genuine acts of responsiveness to the public is misconstrued.

    • I know you asked me to come see them and as I mentioned it is irrelevant to what this issue has been about.

      This is about a one-sided contract that has been unsustainable for our District. Touring the clinics would have never changed my mind on Measure I or any of the other issues with the alignment partner.

    • Samantha it doesn’t bode well that you don’t get the fact that it wasn’t about you and the way you tried to run the clinics. Since you seem to imply that you know nothing then one can surmise that you have nothing relevant to say …….which leaves me to wonder just what information can you possibly offer to the DA or Board members on this matter?

    • Samantha … I would like to talk to you about a few things as a hillman patient .. I am lost with the way things are going.. how can I contact you

  6. This is the Benzveei and Kumer show. Samantha can’t be fully blamed for clinic issues. It has had at least 5 different managers since Boluki, but has taken a steep dive within the last 3 years. They use to have separate billing from the hospital and did know what they were doing. Unlike KDDH, Tulare has always excepted less than qualified physicians. Physicians that didn’t have certain requirements to be on staff at KDDH seem to be qualified to be on staff at TRMC. The fiscal audit needs to be performed and it needs to go back to at least 2007 to find mismanaged/disappearing funds. But HCCA has done he most damage with the help of Kumar, Bell,Wilbourn, Torrez, Gadke. I hope numerous people get to wear an orange jumpsuit when this is all done with. Just remember Tulare is resilient and we will keep our hospital no matter what it takes, as long as we the citizens stick together. Let’s not give up now

    • I agree with you completely. The audit has to go back to 2008 when Boluki was hired. It was during this time that the 85 million dollar bond money was found to have been misspent. As for the clinics I know the person who opened them and between 4 clinics the first full fiscal year there were 32,000 visits. They worked hard, they were out in the community and there were plenty of doctors working there. She was “laid off” due to hospital financial difficulty exactly 10 days after filing fraudulent billing issues and provider payments to the Chief Compliance Officer. And lastly, when is anyone going to make Alan Germany stand in the front of the room and answer some questions. He has fleeced the hospital while bringing it to near collapse.

  7. Samantha – perhaps you would like to give details of Hillman clinic and clear up things for us.
    How many providers & staff were there at the time you started?
    How many patient visits?
    and
    What are the numbers now?

    I bet Dr Parmod Kumar is getting all the Hillman income now – thanks to you puppet.

  8. There has been several very qualified Doctors who were railroaded out of Tulare. The first was Dr Hamoi a Board Certified GI specialist by guess who and the last was The qualified doctor that practiced in the office at evolutions, and many in between. The reason benny is going to recognize Senivia on the 27 th is because he’s got the money and he is going to leave the country just like Kumar helping Bouloki get millions then Bouloki leaving the country to build a hospital somewhere in the Middle East. Their needs to be a Forensic Audit and thorough investigation of board actions since 2008.

    • My understanding is that Benny the thief has not yet paid the ER and the anesthesiology docs. Can someone else confirm or deny this please? The docs will not keep working without getting paid, the hospital will have to close soon. Will he keep all the money and not have to pay any of the debts?

    • Benny would never fire Samantha, she’d walk first. If you know anything about her than you would know that her specialty is turning rual clinics around. She’s always had passion for serving the underprivileged, she’s been successful at it her whole career. However, like someone said above she can only do so much with the limited resources she was given. She went in and cleaned house when doctors were committing fraud. The whole community never supported HCCA and never wanted the hospital to thrive under Benny.

      • FYI EH,
        Dr Parmod Kumar & his wife Dr Parul Gupta were the 2 doctors under OIG investigation for fraud at the Hillman clinic.
        Interestingly, they are the only doctors left there.
        I wonder what is the definition of fraud Samantha was following?

  9. Damaged goods, Dr Ostrom, Zulim, Mackaluso all made backroom deals with Benny and Kumar. They are all trying desparately to save their own skins of course. Mackalsuo changes sides as it suits him and he hasnt quit his day job with HCCA in the radiology department.

  10. Who will be the first to sing like a Canary to save their butt from prosecution? Let’s start a money pool, LOL. Will Benzeevi throw Kumar under the bus first or vice versa

  11. So,the story we are getting is that Samantha “cleaned up” Hillman of all doctors except Dr Parmod Kumar & Benny “cleaned up” the hospital of all doctors except his damaged goods puppets.

    I see.
    I also see what results we have got.
    Nice job team HCCA !

  12. Employees didn’t know proper screening procedures before Samantha came on. Doctors were handing out narcotics like TicTac’s. That’s what Samantha cleaned up. She did the best she could with the resources she was given. I’ve personally seen her ability to turn around and run successful clinics in the Stanislaus valley. Stop bashing her, she’s just as much of a victim as any other employee.

    • I agree. Stop bashing that doesn’t get anything accomplished. I don’t know her but we need to focus on Benny and his little dwarfs. Let’s see what she has to say. Hopefully, we can trust her. BENNY needs to go.

    • Well, … it is like saying lets kill the patient in order to eliminate the disease. She actively chased away ALL doctors except Dr Parmod Kumar. He and one other doctor who recently left have the habit of confusing narcos with candy.
      She kicked out Karla Stein not because of narcos but because of her not kissing Samantha’s feet.
      Was Dr Smith ENT writing excess narco? no Kidney doctors? no Dr Truc? no. Dr Trujillo? no. Diabetes doctor? no PA Yolanda? no

      Samantha is a narcissist egomaniac. Anyone who did not bow to her was shown the door – providers or staff.

      She is very relevant to the demise of quality of care at the hospital.

  13. Dr Benzeevi needs to be investigated and serve jail time if found to be guilty. Same thing goes for his lackey Dr Ostrom, as well as Kumar and Germany
    Not because they have bankrupted the hospital.
    The reason they need to be investigated is that time after time, they knowingly lied to the citizens, painting a rosy picture of a successful hospital. They have refused to provide financial documents.
    It reminds me of what happened to Enron.
    If the DA won’t fully investigate and prosecute these guys, then we need to elect a DA who will.

  14. Current DA has been given a golden opportunity on a platter by destiny.
    He has an issue that if he can work on, it can raise his stature to national level.

    It will take hard work, legal battles, time and good degree of patience but there is significant political gains to be had.
    OR he can be lazy and collect his biscuit – that Kumar & Benny has thrown at him – and disappear unknown in the layers of history in a few months/years.

    • Oh how very true you are. This is 10 years of pilfering public funds. That money has greased the palms of many, created luxury for a few and an empire for one.

      Not a good reason for national press for Tulare or the county but resolution will bring great opportunity for a future healthcare system.

      Do the right thing Mr. Ward, show you aren’t bought like the rest.

  15. The question in my mind is has HCCA already gotten the $101 million loan. If so he has the money and Tulare will have to pay it back. Especially since I understand it is a secured loan. Not even bankruptcy can discharge it. Keep an eye on Bennys private jet.

  16. FYI I believe that the commenter “EH” is Elizabeth Hollander…Samantha’s daughter. Of course she would be defending her.

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