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Hospital, Kizzart issues still unresolved nearly $123K later
Wilson County NewsMay 9, 2012 | 1,856 views | 1 comment
As of Dec. 31, 2011, the Connally Memorial Medical Center has accumulated $122,794.32 in legal fees associated with its ongoing efforts to resolve a failed physician-recruitment agreement with Dr. Jerome Kizzart. This is according to invoices recently presented to the Wilson County News.
On Jan. 17, the newspaper submitted an open records request to the hospital’s Chief Executive Officer Jerome Brooks, asking for the following:
•Copies of invoices, purchase orders, and receipts related to legal fees charged by and paid to Cox Smith since Jan. 20, 2010, RE: Dr. Jerome Kizzart.
•Invoices, purchase orders, and receipts related to legal fees charged by and paid to Howard Berger and Kelly McDonald RE: Dr. Jerome Kizzart.
Brooks on Jan. 31 informed the Wilson County News that the hospital had sought a decision by the state attorney general. In her letter, McDonald -- the hospital’s current attorney -- contended that the invoices were protected by attorney-client privilege, and could not be made public. See “Hospital clams up about legal expenses,” Feb. 8.
On April 6, Cynthia G. Tynan, assistant attorney general, issued a ruling. In her letter, Tynan cited Section 552.022(a)(16) of the state’s Government Code, and said that the information could not be excepted as requested.
As a result, Brooks on April 24 provided redacted copies of invoices via certified mail. According to the information provided:
•Cox Smith billed the hospital $101,225.63.
•Berger, the hospital’s former attorney, billed $45,578.65, which was later adjusted to $35,796.95.
•McDonald’s firm, Carls, McDonald & Dalrymple, billed the hospital $17,014.44.
“Having three law firms and a special audit involved because of what appears to be political, at best, and a personal agenda, at worst, is a complete waste of our limited health-care resources at CMMC,” Kizzart said May 2.
According to information Kizzart provided, Cox Smith agreed to discount some of the hospital’s legal fees, which reduced the balance to $69,982.93.
“If you consider the legal cost to get the contract implemented, as well as time taken from patient care, [it] will easily dwarf any narrow figure provided to WCN,” Kizzart said.
Brooks contended that the hospital is committed to being good stewards of tax dollars in all aspects of the hospital’s operations -- including professional fees.
“The services are indeed expensive, but the regulatory and legal issues that must be addressed are complex and the consequences for non-compliance are extensive,” he said May 2. “There are times when outside assistance is needed and we monitor the services provided by our attorneys and accountants for reasonableness and cost effectiveness.”
Despite the increasing legal bills, however, Brooks said the issues related to Kizzart’s contract still have not been resolved. He declined to comment further.
The hospital and Kizzart have been involved in two separate conflicts. The first is related to a failed physician- recruitment contract between Connally, Kizzart’s practice, and Dr. Roy S. Fisher. The practice was to employ Fisher, who would maintain an office in the hospital’s North County Health Center -- often called the “775 clinic” because it is south of the F.M. 775 intersection -- on U.S. 181 north of Floresville. The working relationship lasted approximately 35 days, ending with Fisher leaving the practice to work for a different one in Floresville.
Cox Smith was hired in June 2011 to send demand letters to Kizzart and to the law firm of David and Wilkerson, requesting documents related to the agreement, for which fees were not to exceed $6,000. Cox Smith was to be paid up to $10,000 more to investigate and report on federal reporting requirements related to the contract. The hospital and Kizzart would later enter mediation -- which is ongoing -- to resolve these issues.
“I’m in the dark regarding our status, especially since mediation resulted in no resolution,” Kizzart said. “The voiced tactical course of action of at least one board member to ‘just out spend and tie up legally’ has all but devastated available resources of the 775 clinic.”
In January, Kizzart petitioned the 218th District Court in an effort to prevent his practice from being evicted from the clinic due to nonpayment of rent. Prior to the matter being heard before a judge, the two sides agreed to a resolution that included an amended lease agreement.
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