Officials at University Hospital must ask all of their physicians to sign off on a 2003 decision to divert millions of dollars to recruiting activities or pay back the money.
MU Chancellor Brady Deaton has ruled that the decision, which took money from a salary plan for doctors, was a “technical violation” of university policy.
The issue was raised in a complaint filed last year by Eddie Adelstein, a pathology associate professor.
“I believe this is a form of corporate stealing,” Adelstein said. “I believe corporate statutes have been violated here, and I believe people should be put in jail.”
The hospital pools its physicians’ salaries and distributes them through the University Physicians Medical Practice Plan. The plan sets aside 6 percent of the money each year for a “Dean’s Office Account,” which pays for such things as research and development, renovation, medical library expenses and new faculty members.
In May 2003, a panel of doctors and hospital administrators voted to increase the amount of money flowing to the Dean’s Office Account to help recruit new clinical chairmen. So far, the salary pool has paid $5.9 million to the recruiting fund.
Adelstein filed a grievance in January 2006 after he looked at the management committee’s bylaws and determined that such a transfer had to be approved by the full staff of physicians, not just the panel.
A five-member grievance panel agreed in December, sending the complaint to Deaton.
Nothing happens if a majority of doctors vote to retroactively approve the recruitment fund. But a negative vote will force the hospital to repay the physicians at least some of the diverted money.
Deaton wrote in his decision that if the recruiting plan fails to gather enough support, he would ensure the repayment “has no adverse effects on School of Medicine departmental operations and that it does not result in an unjustified windfall gain or undue burden for any” doctor.
Adelstein estimated that the transfer cost him about $16,000, but he said the more important issue is making hospital administrators “live by the rules” and change an environment where doctors are afraid of losing their jobs if they complain about the administration’s decisions.
“They knew they could take the money,” he said. “They just felt confident that they could take this money because they didn’t feel anyone could question them.”
The management committee’s chairman, Gregory Worsowicz, is out of the country.
“We plan to comply with Chancellor Deaton’s ruling and will take steps to arrange a vote of the university physicians membership on the issue of recruitment funding,” said hospital spokeswoman Mary Jenkins.
A vote hasn’t been scheduled, but Deaton set a June 1 deadline.