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La. panel to review financial hospital recovery

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TALLULAH, La. (AP) — A state fiscal review committee will meet with Madison Parish Hospital officials next week to determine how the hospital is progressing after years of financial problems.

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera told The News-Star (http://tnsne.ws/1nKgyKN) the meeting on Wednesday will provide state officials the opportunity to determine whether the hospital is meeting requirements in its corrective action plan after years of fraud and misuse of public funds.

The review committee includes Louisiana's legislative auditor, treasurer and attorney general.

If the committee determines the hospital is not meeting goals of the action plan, a fiscal administrator could be appointed to oversee its finances.

An audit released in December 2013 said the Madison Parish Hospital Service District had a $2.2 million deficit and had 36 financial operating deficiencies in its 2012 fiscal year.

The audit provided few surprises, considering the district is coping with the aftermath of more than $5 million in fraud attributed to its former chief executive officer.

A report in early 2013 by the legislative auditor's office said more than $5 million in fraudulent bills were submitted to the Tallulah hospital with the proceeds split between former administrator Wendell Alford, Tech Solutions LLC agent Casey Hughes and insurance agent Russell Ham of Insurance World.

All were prosecuted after the scheme was discovered.

Alford was sentenced to 37 months in prison and three years' probation and is responsible for $1,383,874 in restitution. Hughes was sentenced to 12 months in prison and ordered to pay $566,874 in restitution. Ham will serve 14 months in prison and was ordered to pay $817,000 in restitution. Hughes and Ham will have three years supervised release following their prison terms.

According to the audit, the hospital's total revenue in 2012 was $12.8 million while expenses totaled $15 million, resulting in the $2.2 million loss from operations. At the close of the fiscal year, the hospital district had $3.7 million in cash available after the deficit spending.

Hospital Service District chairman Thomas Williams does not expect a fiscal administrator to be at Wednesday's meeting.

"We are working alongside the legislative auditor, and I'm told the general sense is we are doing what we need to do to correct things through our corrective action plan," Williams said.

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Information from: The News-Star, http://www.thenewsstar.com

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