Among my colleagues and friends, the act of filing false claims is also known as stealing — in this case, stealing from the taxpayers.
While it was stealing $1.6 million from the taxpayers of the state and country, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital was also receiving a tax exemption from the taxpayers of Brattleboro. A full exemption on about $27 million worth of assessed property. They are forgiven about $750,000 in local property taxes.
We could nearly pay for our new firetruck with what we give away to the hospital in one year. If we could collect the taxes and not buy the ladder truck, we could lower our tax rate by about 6.5 cents. Sounds like real money to me.
The $1.6 million they will have to pay back will be added onto their charges for medical services. You and I will pay that, too.
This kind of an institution does not belong in Brattleboro. This behavior is not compatible with the civic and ethical standards of our town.
This sort of reprehensible behavior is toxic, besides illegal. If it continued, it would inevitably filter down from the few mid- and high-level administrators who were in on the scam and poison the atmosphere of the entire organization.
I have spoken with a small number of people who work in the hospital. Indeed, to a person, I can say that there remains a considerable level of unease with the top level of administration.
I should add, however, that I have had a fair amount of interaction with the hospital over the last couple years and have experienced nothing but the highest quality of care delivered with competence and integrity.
In fact, I am consistently awed by and deeply respectful of all the health-care workers who dedicate their lives to the well-being of others but have to do so in a health-care system that is run by a handful of people for whom it seems the primary purpose is to exploit the ill and injured for as much profit as possible.
Now that the shenanigans of our hospital have been exposed and we learn that the whistle was blown a year and a half or two years ago, we can hope that the place is now being run with integrity and that it is possible to get on the road to closure on this issue.
To do so, and if Brattleboro Memorial Hospital thinks of itself as an integral member of the Brattleboro community, its board of directors must provide a satisfactory explanation to the people it serves.