Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2014

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Trail from UMC leads to suspect goods

New clues emerge as police investigate how the public hospital is bleeding money

Metro Police turned up a storage unit full of what appeared to be University Medical Center equipment and new leads in their investigation of the public hospital’s facilities department when they served three search warrants Wednesday.

Police searched a residence and storage unit tied to former UMC employees and the home of Thomas Rose, the owner of Paradise Plumbing.

Rose has not been charged, but his company’s work at the hospital raised red flags in a Clark County audit last year. As the Sun reported in November, Paradise Plumbing received $49,438 to install new water valves at UMC. That work was awarded without a competitive process because, UMC officials said, it was emergency in nature, but county auditors found no evidence the project was urgent.

During the past three years, Rose’s company has received more than $1.5 million for work at UMC, Assistant Sheriff Mike McClary said.

“To date, we’ve not been able to identify a contract they were operating under,” McClary said.

What work, if any, was performed for that $1.5 million still is being investigated.

County Auditor Jerry Carroll said construction work worth more than $100,000 and material purchases worth more than $500,000 typically require commission approval.

“It seems like just out of common sense you would have a contract for this,” he said.

The $49,438 job that Paradise got at the hospital was approved by Thomas Hutchison, then a UMC facilities maintenance supervisor.

Hutchison and three other UMC employees already face theft charges. Hutchison, who resigned in April, and another former manager also are accused of stealing hospital supplies and enlisting hospital employees to work on their personal projects while on county time.

During the police raids Wednesday, detectives found many more items that appear to be from the hospital, McClary said. At the two residences, they also found evidence that produced additional leads, he said.

The Sun could not reach Rose on Thursday. The phone number that the county business licensing department lists for Paradise Plumbing is forwarded to an AT&T corporate store. Employees there said Rose does not work at the store.

The address for Paradise Plumbing is that of a home in northwest Las Vegas owned by Rose.

The investigation of the facilities department is unrelated to the probe of former hospital CEO Lacy Thomas. District Attorney David Roger is in the midst of seeking an indictment from a grand jury against Thomas, who is accused of giving lucrative UMC contracts to friends in Chicago in exchange for kickbacks.

News of the growing theft investigation comes as UMC continues to lose money at a faster-than-expected rate.

Numbers released Wednesday by Clark County show the hospital is on pace to lose about $51 million in fiscal 2008, about $8 million more than budgeted. The county commission will get a full presentation on the hospital’s finances Tuesday.

The raw numbers, though, show hospital administrators have successfully reduced the average number of days patients spend at the hospital. Though that’s a good thing for reducing costs, the hospital has not seen a corresponding reduction in staff. In the first six months of the current fiscal year, UMC was over budget by $4.6 million for salaries and wages.

A UMC official said it’s doubtful the hospital will make up the difference in the second half of the fiscal year and that, ultimately, salaries are an issue the hospital will have to tackle.

UMC lost $34 million in fiscal 2006 and $56 million in fiscal 2007. Thomas was fired in January 2007 on the day that the 2006 loss, much higher than the figure he had warned county officials to expect, was revealed.

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