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May 13, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, May 13, 2005

Patient, doctor seek hospital records Patient, doctor seek hospital records (May 13, 2005)

By Michele Leung

Apparently not satisfied by recent disclosures made to the Voice regarding the compensation package of El Camino Hospital CEO Lee Domanico, a patient and a doctor at the hospital have each requested to see the administrator's contract -- and one says he'll sue to get it if necessary.

William Teglia, a dialysis patient at El Camino, has filed a request through his lawyers to get information on Domanico's contract, and is also requesting similar information on senior managers Marla Gularte, the hospital's chief financial officer, and Jon Friedenburg, hospital vice president. In addition, Teglia is seeking information on the board of directors' compensation and the financial statements of the hospital's dialysis unit.

On another front, Leonard Doberne, an endocrinologist at the hospital, says he has placed a call to El Camino's administration asking for a copy of Domanico's contract. While the hospital has given him a copy of the CEO's previous 2000-03 contract, Doberne said he wants to see the current contract, as well as records for other top administrators.

Domanico has been under scrutiny ever since the Voice sued to obtain his compensation package last fall. At first the hospital balked, claiming to be a nonprofit organization with no obligation to disclose such information. But eventually El Camino settled with the Voice, releasing records showing that for the fiscal year ending June 2004, Domanico made $441,000 in base salary, $174,000 in bonuses, a free housing loan and other perks -- more than $900,000, all told.

Richard Spotswood, Teglia's attorney, said that his client is threatening to sue, not to seek damages for himself, but to make the hospital district more forthcoming.

"He's not looking for a penny for himself. He's just an angry citizen," Spotswood said of Teglia, who receives treatment at El Camino three times a week. "From a moral standpoint, he's the reason the hospital exists."

According to Teglia, the dialysis unit has been cutting back on its services. His attorney said Teglia has documented cases of staff members not following proper cleanliness procedures and being too rushed with their patients.

"If they're cutting back services, I want to see if they are losing money," Teglia said.

Hospital spokesperson Judy Twitchell acknowledged that El Camino reduced hours at the dialysis unit last year. However, she said, "This did not result in employees losing their jobs. There were no layoffs and no changes in patient operations."

Twitchell said that "we have responded" to Teglia, adding that the hospital plans to "accommodate" his request. She said she had no knowledge of the separate request by Doberne.

For his part, Doberne told the Voice he requested the contract to determine if the hospital's money is being spent as wisely as possible.

"I want to follow the money," Doberne said. "I've been critical of the hospital's pricing structure. They raised prices dramatically over five years to the point where a lot of things are overpriced. They have justified the high salary by the fact that the hospital is earning a lot of money. I'd like to know at what cost."

While Teglia has characterized Domanico's salary as "lavish," Doberne said he doesn't place blame on the CEO.

"It's the board," Doberne said. "They're giving money away like water."

In the past, directors have said that Domanico's salary is justified because he has more to oversee than comparable heads of other hospitals.

Spotswood said he hopes the hospital district becomes more transparent as a result of his client's actions. "Very few people pay attention to special districts unless someone raises a flag," he said, adding that Teglia "is putting the spotlight on the district."

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