UC Irvine will close its orthopedic residency program at Mission Hospital on April 12 due to its loss of more than one million dollars over the program’s span of three and a half years.
‘The consensus decision was that the business arrangement should be terminated because it was not successful,’ chairman of the UCI orthopedics department Dr. Ranjan Gupta said in an L.A. Times article dated March 29.
UCI will terminate its contract with Mission Orthopedic Medical Associates, a private medical practice, five months earlier than its scheduled end date. According to physicians in the orthopedics department, the school originally pursued the contract with the private practice and its well-known surgeon, Dr. Bernard Reimer, as a means to expand the school’s progression into and profits from southern Orange County’s medical market.
‘The decision on the value of the residency program is being made based on a poor business decision on the administrative side,’ said CEO of Mission Hospital Peter Bastone in an L.A. Times article dated March 29.
After UC Irvine’s School of Medicine hired an auditor to review the orthopedics department’s finances and determine the definite cause of its revenue loss, records indicated that Reimer and his wife, Dawn, his office manager until last year, were receiving large amounts of money up front.
Dawn Reimer blamed UCI’s business practices for the school’s monetary losses.
‘We are their scapegoats,’ Dawn Reimer said in the same L.A. Times article. ‘They were losing money because they didn’t know how to bill for their patients.’
The program at Mission Hospital started in 2003, when Dr. Harry Skinner served as the chairman of the orthopedics department and Dr. Thomas Cesario resided as the dean of the medical school.
Although he still remains on staff as a faculty member, the medical school forced Skinner to resign as chairman in January after he made inappropriate racial remarks to medical school employees.
Cesario served as the medical school dean for 11 years but decided to take an early retirement late last year. Doctors stealing women’s eggs and embryos, missing bodies from the school’s willed-body program and questionable failings in the hospital’s liver, bone marrow and kidney transplant operations characterized his tenure and occurred during his time as dean.
Initially, Skinner and Cesario had agreed to pay Dawn Reimer over $100,000 for her job as office manager and recruit her as a faculty member as long as her patients were billed for her husband’s services at Mission Hospital through the UCI Medical Center in Orange.
The medical school prohibits full-time faculty from overseeing their own practices. Dr. Mark Ishimaru, a colleague of Reimer’s, has no affiliation with the UC Irvine Medical School and thus now owns the private practice. Reimer was required to give Ishimaru total control of the private practice once Reimer became a UC Irvine faculty member.
Records indicate that Reimer, who had been diagnosed with cancer at the time the contract went into effect and was therefore only working part-time, could receive disability insurance stipends as long as he did not earn more than $100,800 a year.
Skinner found ways to pay Reimer for extraneous tasks in order to keep Reimer’s salary within the allotted boundaries so he could still collect insurance compensations. For instance, Skinner paid Reimer and Dawn $50,000 for attorney fees and an additional $10,000 a month for the initial three months of his contract. In addition to her annual $38,400 salary, Dawn received between $6,000 and $7,000 a month for ‘general expenses.’ In turn, Dawn received approximately $128,000 in 2005, which was more than what the school was paying her husband to treat patients, teach residents and conduct surgeries.
When one of the school’s attorneys, Peter Schneider, confronted Skinner about Dawn’s high salary and asked to eliminate her payments. Skinner responded by suggesting that the sum be lowered to $88,000 annually.
Although Reimer remains on the faculty, Dawn quit in July after Ishimaru, the doctor currently in charge of Mission Orthopedic, refused to approve her request to work three days a week and earn $65,000 a year. Her current replacement earns an annual salary of $45,000.
Three UCI doctors at Mission quit and approximately 1,000 Mission Orthopedic patients will be notified by the school that they will be able to continue to see their UCI doctors at alternate locations. The school will put Reimer on leave without pay in two weeks because of his disagreement to work at an alternate UCI office.
Reimer said he worked for 20 years to build Mission Orthopedics, for which orthopedic residents elected him as the top clinical faculty member in 2006.
‘I made a deal with the devil by going to work at UCI,’ Reimer said in the L.A. Times article. ‘Now, I don’t even have an office to go to.’
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