Council approves second year of Rumpke contract as costs continue to rise

Source: Rick Rouan, The Columbus Dispatch, April 9, 2018

No savings have emerged more than a year after Columbus agreed to pay its vendor more to collect recycling and yard waste with the caveat that it would seek new ways to trim its costs. City Council on Monday voted 6-1 to approve the second year of an anticipated five-year agreement for curbside recycling and yard waste collection. The city will pay Cincinnati-based Rumpke about $8.7 million in 2018, up from about $8.5 million last year. … The city is paying significantly more for recycling and yard waste collections now than it did when it launched curbside pickups in 2012.Rumpke has been the city’s vendor since the curbside pickups began. The company held a five-year contract, and when that came up for renewal last year Rumpke was the only bidder for a new five-year deal. Rumpke’s bid was 50 percent higher than its first deal, though, citing a depressed market for recyclables and other factors that contributed to the increase. …

Paramedics Plus, Oklahoma agency settle federal kickback lawsuit

Source: Erin Mansfield, Tyler Morning Telegraph, April 3, 2018

A company with ties to the former East Texas Medical Center has settled a federal kickback lawsuit. Paramedics Plus was a subsidiary of the East Texas Medical Center health system that provided emergency medical services to an Oklahoma agency called Emergency Medical Services Authority. In January 2017, the Department of Justice filed suit against Paramedics Plus and the other defendants in the case alleging that Paramedics Plus paid more than $20 million in kickbacks to the Oklahoma agency.

… In March 2017, the East Texas Medical Center health system announced it would merge Paramedics Plus with a similar subsidiary and spin off the two emergency medical services entities into a new company. A month ago, the East Texas Medical Center health system completed a deal to sell its assets to Ardent Health Services, based in Tennessee, and the University of Texas system. The new entity is now called UT Health East Texas. Three weeks later, UT Health East Texas announced it would lay off about 400 employees, or 5 percent of its workforce, as part of a plan to bring the new health care system toward financial stability. …

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Justice Department moves forward in its case against ETMC, Paramedics Plus
Source: Roy Maynard, Tyler Morning Telegraph, May 12, 2017

The U.S. Department of Justice continues to build its case against East Texas Medical Center and its ambulance division, Paramedics Plus, in what they say is a $20 million kickback scheme to ensure Paramedics Plus retained lucrative contracts. Most recently, Justice Department attorneys filed a list of people they expect to depose in coming months. In all, more than 100 people could be deposed as this case moves forward. The government also filed a proposed schedule, which outlines when fact discovery will take place, when expert discovery will occur, deadlines for motions and trial preparation and finally, an expected timeframe for the start of the trial – summer of 2018. … In January, the Justice Department announced it would intervene in a lawsuit against ETMC and Paramedics Plus brought by a whistleblower – former employee Stephen Dean, who was Paramedics Plus chief operating officer. According to the suit, ETMC and Paramedics Plus paid more than $20 million in kickbacks and bribes, including cash payments to Oklahoma officials. …

You Paid For It: Pinellas Commissioners discuss ambulance kickback settlement Tuesday
Source: Mark Douglas, March 21, 2017

Former U.S Attorney Brian Albritton told Pinellas County Commissioners Tuesday that a federal lawsuit alleging ambulance fee kickbacks could have cost taxpayers as much as $1 billion if they lost in court. Commissioners agreed to settle the case involving Paramedics Plus Sunstar ambulance service for $92,700 and to forgo an estimated $500,000 in uncollected ambulance fees from patients. They will also have to pay legal fees to Albritton who the county secretly hired last year to resolve the case. Pinellas commissioners discussed the case publicly Tuesday for the first time since Eight On Your Side first broke the story of alleged kickbacks and a federal investigation of Pinellas County’s ambulance contract last month. That settlement, signed March 7 by Vice-Chair Kenneth Welch, requires the county to pay $92,700 to federal prosecutors, the Florida Attorney General and attorneys for the whistleblower–a former executive with Paramedics Plus. It also requires Pinellas County to turn over all documents and evidence gathered in the course of the county’s own internal investigation, and to cooperate with an ongoing federal investigation and whistleblower action filed against Paramedics Plus in Texas.

… Since 2004, Paramedics Plus has operated as Pinellas County’s exclusive ambulance provider under the county-owned brand name Sunstar. The current county contract with Paramedics Plus amounts to about $50 million a year. In 2014, a former high-ranking executive of Paramedics Plus filed a whistleblower action in Texas that alleged an ongoing ambulance fee kickback scheme that stretched from Pinellas County to Oklahoma and California for over a decade. The scheme alleged by the whistleblower and federal prosecutors in a related legal action included so-called “profit cap” rebates that essentially funneled overcharges from Medicaid and Medicare to Pinellas County and other local governments that oversee public ambulance contracts. County leaders in Pinellas insist the “rebates” or “kickbacks’ in Pinellas totaled only $35,000 or so and ended up in county bank accounts, not someone’s pockets. In Oklahoma, the whistleblower suit alleges those kickbacks amounted to as much as $20 million. Federal prosecutors in Texas have cited specific acts of corruption in Oklahoma that include kickbacks, political payoffs and self-enrichment involving Paramedics Plus executives and government overseers in Oklahoma. … Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard says the settlement has no impact on the county’s ongoing $50 million a year contract with Paramedics Plus because the company has not been charged criminally or been found guilty of anything.

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Audit finds state lacks documented oversight of new foster care model

Source: Allie Morris, San Antonio Express-News, April 1, 2018

A recent audit found flaws in the state’s oversight of a new foster care model that further privatizes the system and is set to roll out in Bexar County soon. In the new model, a contractor manages foster care providers within a certain region, instead of the state. The Legislature approved expansion of the model last session as a way to improve the embattled foster care system, which is facing a long-running class-action lawsuit by foster children who claim they faced abuse, constant movement and overmedication. The state audit found the Department of Family and Protective Services conducted site visits to ensure contractor ACH Child and Family Services was in compliance. But the state didn’t have documentation to show whether it verified that ACH monitored all 107 foster care providers in its seven-county area, which includes Fort Worth, or whether their oversight was effective. In one instance, state auditors reported that ACH hadn’t monitored one foster care provider for more than 18 months as children continued being placed there. …

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New Texas Law Will Create A More Private Foster Care System
Source: Becky Fogel, September 5, 2017

On Sept. 1, hundreds of new laws took effect in Texas. A number were aimed at improving the state’s child welfare system. Failure to do so was not an option. … In December 2015, after a wave of reports about Texas kids dying from neglect and abuse while in foster care, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack found the state’s foster care system was unconstitutional and deemed it “broken.” Fast forward to May, when Gov. Greg Abbott signed a number of bills to overhaul that system. The case hasn’t been dismissed. But one of the major changes to the foster care system that lawmakers approved during this year’s legislative session was already in the works before Texas was sued in 2011. It was originally called Foster Care Redesign – and now that Senate Bill 11 has taken effect, it establishes a model that increasingly privatizes the foster care system. The program will begin rolling out across the state soon. But the term “model” is a bit misleading, since the redesign is not a one-size-fits all program.

… The foster care model envisioned by Senate Bill 11 is already in use by one community provider. In fact, ACH Child and Family Services in north Texas has been at it for three years. … Over the last three years, the non-profit ACH actually lost money. Carson says they spent $6 million building up services in the region they managed. Considering this extra investment, does the state really need to privatize the foster care system to get better results, or did it just get bad results because it was underfunded for decades? …

Abbott signs Texas bills on CPS, foster care, though federal judge may have last word
Source: Robert T. Garrett, Dallas News, May 30, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday signed into law “landmark legislation” that he said would improve child protection in Texas. … Two of the bills he signed seek to give CPS workers more options after they remove children from abusive and neglectful homes. One begins moving toward a community-centered system of procuring foster care beds and services, using area nonprofits or local governments. By September 2019, in a total of five areas, the state would give private providers “case management” duties now performed by CPS workers. … The bill’s author, Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, and House sponsor James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, yielded to a decade-long push by foster care providers to be able to take over CPS conservatorship workers’ duties in those five regions.
… Skeptics have noted, though, that good early results in Tarrant and six nearby counties were achieved using state workers as well as the private entities. …

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How Privatization Sparked the Massive Oklahoma Teacher Uprising

Source: Valerie Vande Panne, In These Times, April 10, 2018
 
To explain the reasons for the strike and ongoing mobilizations, most mainstream media have been marketing poverty porn: This teacher sells plasma. Another works six jobs to make ends meet. Some teachers in Oklahoma tell In These Times that major outlets are specifically only asking to speak with the poorest teachers. But there’s a bigger issue at hand than the impoverished state of teachers and their support staff: privatization. For more than a decade, state legislators—Democrats and Republicans alike—have marched the state off the proverbial financial cliff, then used budget shortfalls to push privatization. For every notch the state’s economic belt is tightened, a private company comes in and takes over—at a cost largely unknown to Oklahomans. …

Chico Animal Shelter to continue offering animal control and sheltering

Source: Dani Anguiano, Chico Enterprise-Record, March 26, 2018

The city of Chico will keep its animal control and shelter services in house. In December, the city announced it would re-examine contracting out those services and requested proposals from local groups to see what other providers could offer in regard to animal services and if that could help improve practices or cut costs. Butte Humane Society and Friends of the Chico Animal Shelter submitted proposals in response to the request, and supporters and representatives from those groups passionately made their case in letters to this newspaper and City Council members. City Manager Mark Orme made the determination not to recommend outsourcing animal control and sheltering services at this time, he said, and the matter will not come before the council unless requested. That is standard practice, Orme said, adding that one aspect of his job is to examine the viability of operations in the city on a continuous basis. …

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Letter: Animals deserve care offered by city government
Source: Sarah Downs, Enterprise-Record, December 14, 2017

Recently an article was published in the E-R regarding the city considering contracting out animal shelter services in the hopes of saving the city money. However, it took seven years to gain control of the shelter from the Butte Humane Society, and it wasn’t entirely to save money. BHS ran the shelter for over 25 years, and there were big problems regarding animal care and general operations and costs. Since the city took over, the shelter has been run cleanly, efficiently, with a high level of care, and the euthanasia rate has plummeted. It’s been five years since the city took over, and I think the operations are something we can be proud of. … Finally, historically speaking, relations between BHS and the city have often been strained. With all of the information I’ve personally been able to gather, it seems contracting out to BHS would result in resorting to old practices causing a detriment to the animals of our community. …

Chico Animal Services, Animal Control could be contracted out
Source: Ashiah Scharaga, Enterprise-Record, December 1, 2017

The city could be contracting out the services at the Chico Animal Shelter, as well as those provided by Animal Control. City staff will start gathering program proposals this winter and present everything to the City Council in the coming months, according to Assistant City Manager Chris Constantin. … The city may chose to contract out all, some or none of the services, and the decision will ultimately rest with the City Council. Animal Services Manager Tracy Mohr said the city animal shelter has done a fantastic job of reducing euthanasia rates and having positive outcomes for animals. … Four years ago, the city considered contracting out services at the shelter and many other departments when the city was not as financially stable. …

Opinion: P3 schools fail to make the grade

Source: Tom Graham, Regina Leader-Post, March 31, 2018

If we could build five schools for the cost of four, any responsible government would do it. That is exactly what the Manitoba government decided in its 2018 budget, which rejected the public-private partnership (P3) model to build schools. Manitoba reviewed the evidence and found that for the price of $100 million, it could build five schools the traditional way, instead of four P3 schools. It makes one wonder why our financially challenged Saskatchewan Party government chose the more expensive P3 model to build and maintain 18 schools and other P3 projects. Our government keeps saying that P3 schools save money, but where is the evidence? … What we do know is that we are paying a hefty premium for maintenance contracts for brand-new schools which, if built properly, should not need that much maintenance or repair. Let’s hope the private maintenance companies do not charge $409 to replace a soap dispenser as happened at a P3 hospital in Montreal. There are a few other costs specific to P3 schools that we should mention: the higher interest payments for the private financing of the school construction, the higher consultant costs for reports, and the $500,000 given to each of the companies that bid but did not get the contract. …

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CUPE members in Manitoba celebrate major victory against P3s
Source: CUPE, March 13, 2018

The Manitoba Government has cancelled all plans to involve public-private partnerships (P3s) in the education system, and instead is committing to build five new publicly-funded schools in Winnipeg and Brandon. The government initially planned to build four schools under the P3 model, but after a cost-benefit analysis the savings were found to be enough to build an entire fifth school. …

UW Students Occupy Building to Protest Closure of Unionized Laundry

Source: Heidi Groover, The Stranger, April 9, 2018
 
About 20 students are currently occupying UW Medicine administrative offices urging the university not to shutter its laundry service. The laundry currently employs about 100 people who clean linens and scrubs for University of Washington Medicine hospitals and clinics. After UW Medicine saw a $75 million operating loss last year, the university is considering shifting from operating the laundry to contracting a private company for the service. The school says the current laundry requires expensive upgrades. Workers say they fear losing steady jobs that pay $15 to $18 an hour. … According to the laundry workers and their unions, most of the laundry employees are immigrants and people of color. Some have worked there more than a decade. Speaking on campus before marching to the UW Medicine building Monday, workers said they fear being unable to support their families without the jobs. The Washington Federation of State Employees and Service Employees International Union 925 represents the laundry workers. During the rally, UW sophomore Iman Mustafa stood next to her father, who has worked at the laundry most of her life. The job offers a stable wage but “no mobility,” Mustafa said. She fears her father will have trouble finding a new job if he’s laid off. The university is “making them all homeless,’ Mustafa said. …

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As UW Laundry Workers Advocate to Keep Their Jobs, 15 Employees Get Layoff Notices
Source: Heidi Groover, The Stranger, April 2, 2018
 
On Wednesday, workers from the University of Washington-run laundry that services UW hospitals and clinics gathered with supporters on the university campus. They fear they could lose their jobs as the university moves to privatize the laundry. They used the rally to highlight that fear and call on the school to reconsider. The next day, 15 of the laundry’s roughly 100 employees got a new reason to worry: They received notices that they will be laid off in 60 days. Rod Palmquist from the Washington Federation of State Employees AFSCME Council 28, which represents some of the laundry workers, said the union plans to rally community members and elected officials to try to fight the layoffs. He said the union does not believe the layoffs are retaliation. …

Workers Protest UW Laundry Closure
Source: Melissa Hellmann, Seattle Weekly, March 29, 2018
 
Patricia Thomas has cleaned patient bed linens and employee uniforms for nearly three decades at Consolidated Laundry, a Rainier Valley facility which serves University of Washington hospitals and clinics. … Thomas never considered getting another job until she returned to her work station in January after a week-long vacation. In the midst of folding clothes, a colleague told her that UW was considering closing the Consolidated Laundry. Citing a $75 million budget shortfall throughout UW Medicine’s operations, the University is considering privatizing its laundry services. … Most of the facility’s workers are middle-aged, immigrants or people of color who rely on the job for its $15 minimum wages, health care, and retirement benefits. “The privatization of this facility risks over 100 good-paying union jobs with members whose families directly rely on that employment,” said Rod Palmquist, the Higher Education Coordinator for the Washington Federation of State Employees. … Over 100 UW Laundry Workers, student members of UW United Students Against Sweatshops, other union member supporters, and political groups gathered at the Drumheller Fountain on UW’s Seattle campus on Wednesday to protest the facility’s closure and to deliver over 600 petition signatures to UW President Ana Mari Cauce. …

Plan to dismantle Puerto Rico’s statistics agency gets green light

Source: Giorgia Gulielmi, Nature, April 5, 2018
 
Puerto Rico’s senators this week approved a plan to overhaul an independent statistics agency tasked with coordinating the collection and analysis of crucial data — including the impact of hurricanes — on the island. The reorganization will wreck the US territory’s ability to produce credible data about itself, including updated estimates of the death toll from Hurricane Maria, critics of the plan say. The 2 April decision paves the way towards restructuring several government agencies, including the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics (PRIS). Lawmakers must now approve legislation dismantling the laws that established PRIS in order to make the reorganization official. Under Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s plan to reduce the size and cost of government agencies, first introduced in January, PRIS would become an office in the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, which would outsource the institute’s duties to private companies. …

Hempstead Town puts out bid for animal trainer for dogs

Source: Stefanie Dazio, Newsday, March 29, 2018
 
The RFP is the latest in recent weeks to be issued by the town and is part of several changes at the Wantagh animal shelter. Supervisor Laura Gillen previously put out an RFP that could lead to privatizing part of the shelter and the town’s animal control services. Gillen has also moved to install additional security cameras at the shelter, a move the Civil Service Employees Association Local 880 has questioned. …

Kaiser expands footprint on Maui

Source: Kristen Consillio, Honolulu Star Advertiser, April 4, 2018
 
Kaiser Permanente Hawaii has acquired 6.2 acres under its Wailuku Medical Office for $22 million. The state’s largest health maintenance organization — both a medical provider and health insurer with more than 255,000 members statewide — said the investment “allows for greater flexibility and certainty around future operational costs. … The HMO assumed control of three Maui County hospitals on July 1 in the largest privatization in state history. The HMO pledged to inject more resources into Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lanai Community Hospital, the only acute-care facilities for about 200,000 residents and visitors in Maui County. …

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HGEA nurses disgruntled over Kaiser management
Source: Melissa Tanji, Maui News, February 22, 2018
 
The head of about 800 union workers at Maui Memorial Medical Center said Maui Health System officials need “to step up their game” and start fulfilling “the bill of goods” touted by the private entity to improve former public hospitals on Maui. Randy Perreira, executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, said on Wednesday that in the past several weeks, union hospital workers have been reaching out to the union to express concern about inadequate staffing, mainly nurses, along with not having enough supplies or staff support at Maui’s only acute-care hospital. He reported that employees believe that the July 1 changeover of operations from the quasi-public Hawaii Health Systems Corp. to Kaiser-affiliated Maui Health System at Maui Memorial, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital has not been as rosy as painted recently in the media. …

The neurosurgeon is out
Source: Chris Sugidono, Maui News, February 11, 2018
 
Maui Health System is in labor negotiations with the Hawaii Government Employees Association and United Public Workers on the unions’ first contract with the new management. HGEA represents 775 nurses and other health care professionals, while UPW has roughly 500 members working in maintenance, food service and laundry.  HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira said in an email that the union’s goal is to ensure the investments from taxpayers and Kaiser “results in the best patient care and services” for Maui County. He added that he would like Kaiser to retain its current employees and recruit highly qualified and experienced “long-term” health care professionals. …

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