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State hospital overcharged for medicine, audit says

Lax verification procedures at a state-run hospital and nursing home in Hagerstown allowed the facility to be overcharged by $25,639 for pharmaceutical products, according to a state audit report released Thursday.

Staff at the Western Maryland Hospital Center didn’t consistently cross-check the medication that was delivered and invoiced against the orders written by physicians and didn’t always get invoices from the hospital’s wholesaler to make sure the right amount was being charged, according to the report.

The state Office of Legislative Audits examined the hospital’s books from May 7, 2012, to May 29, 2015. The hospital is operated by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Van T. Mitchell, the state health secretary, said in a letter to state auditors — included in the report — that he and his department would promptly address the issues discussed in the audit.

The hospital has pledged to keep better track of pharmaceutical deliveries and invoices and has received a credit from its wholesaler for the $25,639 it was improperly charged, according to the department’s written response to the audit.

The pharmaceutical vendor’s current contract with the vendor — lasting from July 2014 until June 2019 — is worth about $5.1 million, according to the audit.

Auditors also found the hospital wasn’t reviewing the hours billed by a contractor closely enough and wasn’t approving the contractor’s timesheets, as it was required to do. As a result, one individual was paid $12,000 for work for which no timesheet was provided and another was paid $20,160 for which only $16,800 was supported by timesheets, according to the audit.

The hospital will make sure that all contractually-required documentation is provided before paying contractors and will review all of the previously approved invoices from the contractor to see if any other timesheets were missing, according to the agency’s response.

The contractor, which provided personnel to replace three executive management positions, was granted a $2.6 million contract for three more years of work at the hospital in June, according to the audit report.

Western Maryland Hospital Center has an average daily population of 57 inpatients but can accommodate as many as 123. The facility offers long-term nursing care, inpatient and outpatient dialysis and treatment for patients with brain injuries.