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Sunday, 14 December 2014 08:47

Golden Valley Health Center Doctors and Nurses Hold Picket-Rally at Board Director’s House

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Golden Valley Health Centers doctors, nurses and medical staff had law enforcement called on them when they showed up at the home of the board of directors chairman Thursday night. They are demanding to be heard and an investigation into CEO Tony Weber. Below see video of the rally and scathing, open letters from doctors and nurses to the board. 12-11-14 Golden Valley Health Centers doctors, nurses and medical staff had law enforcement called on them when they showed up at the home of the board of directors chairman Thursday night. They are demanding to be heard and an investigation into CEO Tony Weber. Below see video of the rally and scathing, open letters from doctors and nurses to the board. 12-11-14 Jonathan McCorkell/TurlockCityNews.com
Doctors and nurses from Golden Valley Health Centers (GVHC) in Turlock, Modesto, Merced and Los Banos are concerned their clinics may turn into valleys of death if recently hired CEO Tony Weber gets his way.

A group of about 50 total Golden Valley Health Center doctors, nurses, staff and family members from Turlock, Modesto and Merced braved the rain on Thursday to fight for patients’ care at an intense, but peaceful, picket-rally held outside the private Merced residence of John Price, President of the GVHC board of directors.

The GVHC employees showed up at Price’s home after a board meeting was suddenly changed to Price’s home in an effort to avoid heated confrontation with the employees — although he claimed it was a “Christmas Party,” even after several other board members and GVHC executives such as Chief Financial Officer Lue Thao just happened to show up at his house carrying a binder.

At one point four Merced County Sheriff Deputies showed up — each in their own cruiser. But they quickly left after they realized it was an actual board meeting, a peaceful rally, and they were dealing with medical professionals who were unlikely to turn violent.


Doctors, Nurses Worried about Patient Access

The employees who are calling for action, which includes a list of 150 signed supporters including doctors, nurses and other medical professionals say they are upset over recent workload mandates, cuts and terminations they feel will affect patients health care and access to doctors.

In May long-time GVHC Director Michael Sullivan retired and he was replaced by Weber. More than 150 employees signed an open-letter to the GVHC Board of Directors accusing that Weber could be involved “in a potential fraud scheme” aimed at increasing profits on the backs of patients for the federally funded, non-profit organization.

“Mr. Tony Weber, recently initiated a new scheme to overload doctors with patients, thereby decreasing visits and consequently maximizing profits at the expense of patient care and quality,” the letter reads.

Employees say the new management team wants doctors to see six new patients per day, or 30 per week, which equals 1,440 new patients per doctor over the next year, but doctors say they are already at max capacity.

The employees say that by making doctors see more patients than they can handle, it decreases the opportunity for patients to see their doctor as much or at all — which can seriously affect their health and create a ripple effect at other emergency rooms and urgent care facilities throughout Stanislaus and Merced Counties.

GVHC first opened in 1972 to help migrant farm workers and now operates more than 20 clinics that provides service to 100,000 patients, many of whom are low-income or are part of an underserved population of farmworkers and the uninsured.

The formula is that the more patients doctors see, the more insurance companies pay GVHC. This is known as a “capitation” plan.

“Capitation is a payment arrangement where insurers pay a physician or group of physicians a set amount for each enrolled person assigned to them, per period of time, whether or not that person seeks care,” the letter reads. “Under a capitation payment model, increasing load and decreasing visits will allow GVHC to reap windfall profits at the expense of patient care and quality.”

Employees say this could amount to fraud, in addition to patient care concerns, the employees want the GVHC Board of Directors and the State Department of Labor Standards Enforcement to launch an investigation into Weber’s activities.

Weber did not return numerous phone calls from TurlockCityNews.com requesting comment.


GVHC Employees Fear Retaliation by Weber

Dr. Liza Marie Pham spoke on behalf of many of her fellow doctors and employees who fear retaliation from Weber.

“They are going to destroy 40 years of work,” said Pham.

Apparently the employees may not be wrong in fearing retaliation. In 2007, Weber was a defendant in a whistleblower lawsuit in Fresno federal court; he and his co-defendants agreed to pay $400,000 to the U.S. Government and the federal government awarded the plaintiff $100,000. The plaintiff accused Weber, who was the CFO for Family Healthcare Network at the time, and his co-defendants of fraud in obtaining federal grant funding.

Since taking his post as CEO of GVHC in May, Weber fired 17-year Chief Medical Officer Dr. Silvia Diego and the first Latina member of the California Medical Board, accepted the resignation of former interim CEO Christine Noguera and Nursing Director Connie Diers, terminated the manager of GVHC West Modesto Clinic and a former grants manager.

On top of all that — what really has the doctors fired up — is that he hired George Conklin, a physicians assistant, as chief medical officer.

“There is a prevailing sense of fear, there is no freedom to express oneself, without fear of retaliation from the leadership team,” Pham wrote in a letter to the board.


Alleged Racism, Wrongful Termination, Hostile Work Environment

Also in the letter, Pham documents heated exchanges at board meetings, accuses Weber of wrongful termination, creating a hostile and divided work environment, harassment of providers and employees, discrimination and patient abandonment.

In one section of the letter, she accused Chief Human Resource Officer Michael Buda of outright racially biased comments that he says he didn’t remember.

“Mr. Buda verbally expressed racist and discriminatory comments against foreign medical graduates,” Pham wrote in a letter. “More specifically, Mr. Buda stated the following: ‘that doctors of foreign countries do not receive adequate medical training and GVHC does not want to have a reputation for hiring lesser qualified physicians.’”

“Despite Mr. Buda’s selective memory… As a foreign medical graduate, I am disgusted and insulted at the blatant discrimination against foreign medical graduates by Mr. Buda, who may have violated one or more attorney ethics rules with his racially charged and discriminatory statement,” continued Pham in the letter. “In fact, Section 330 of the PHS Act requires FQHCs to design culturally and linguistically appropriate health services programs. GVHC relies on foreign medical graduates and the foreign language training of foreign graduates in order to meet the requirements of Section 330. I myself speak medical Spanish, in addition to English and Tagalog, and my ethnic background includes Filipino, Chinese and German. Many of GVHC’s foreign graduate providers have similar diverse backgrounds and speak multiple languages as well. This is what makes GVHC great.”

Ultimately employees say they want what is best for the patients, as one family nurse who didn’t want to be named out of fear for her job said, “It’s not about us versus them. This is about patient care. They don’t realize how much this will affect the patients and they don’t realize how much we care about our patients. While they leave everyday at 4:30 and take cocktail lunches, most of us are salaried employees who work 10, 12 hours a day and often don’t have lunch. That comes back to the patients and their quality of care. The board needs to hear what we have to say.”

TurlockCityNews.com was provided with several letters from doctors and employees, which can be found below.

Foreign Doctors Letter

Nov. 24 Letter to GVHC Board of Directors

Open Letter Dec. 11

Open Letter Dec. 9

Open Letter Dec. 2

Michael Buda’s Thoughts on Foreign Educated Physicians

Comments (95)

  1. Grandma

Even grandma can find dirt on Tony Weber. Did the board knew? If so, why did the board hire Tony? If the board knew but still continued to hire Tony Weber, is it negligence and neglect of fiduciary duty - namely, to act on good faith in the best...

Even grandma can find dirt on Tony Weber. Did the board knew? If so, why did the board hire Tony? If the board knew but still continued to hire Tony Weber, is it negligence and neglect of fiduciary duty - namely, to act on good faith in the best interest of GVHC? How can one defend that hiring someone with a history of Fraud and Bankruptcy is in the best interest of GVHC? You can't defend such a hiring publicly or in court. I smell breach of fiduciary duty suits coming ...

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  1. The Number 3.19

The average number of visits per patient per year is 3.19. That's why the average panel is 1500. So at 4000, each patient can only visit the doctor once. How do you reconcile this with 3.19? You can't. And if you can't, it is fraud. This is not a...

The average number of visits per patient per year is 3.19. That's why the average panel is 1500. So at 4000, each patient can only visit the doctor once. How do you reconcile this with 3.19? You can't. And if you can't, it is fraud. This is not a victimless crime. Patients will suffer and everyone's healthcare costs will go up.

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  1. Jeremy Britto

I went to the clinic recently on Florida and the clinic was overwhelmed with patients. These changes are affecting the entire community. There are not enough providers to see all those patients. Stop this madness Mr. Weber! Do what is right for...

I went to the clinic recently on Florida and the clinic was overwhelmed with patients. These changes are affecting the entire community. There are not enough providers to see all those patients. Stop this madness Mr. Weber! Do what is right for the people Mr. Price.

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  1. Patient Civil Rights

Federal civil rights laws and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects patient health safety. I wonder this warrants an investigation by the US Department of Justice for Civil Rights and HIPPA Violations.

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It takes a special kind of doctor and nurse to work at GVHC because GVHC serves the poor, the homeless and the farm workers – the underserved. Try visiting one of their homeless clinics and you will see how special and dedicated these doctors...

It takes a special kind of doctor and nurse to work at GVHC because GVHC serves the poor, the homeless and the farm workers – the underserved. Try visiting one of their homeless clinics and you will see how special and dedicated these doctors and nurses are. In fact, one of GVHC’s current board member, Alfred Hunt, was formerly a homeless person and was treated and loved by these doctors. Support them. Someday when you are down on your luck, you may need them to care for you. They are the safety net for the central valley. Thank you GVHC providers for your services to our communities.

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  1. Jill

I have been there with my kids and it is terrible. Even before the takeover, I have had to wait up to 2 hours and they have lost lab work, when I would ask the Doctor for the results. She would not have them. I have changed doctors so many...

I have been there with my kids and it is terrible. Even before the takeover, I have had to wait up to 2 hours and they have lost lab work, when I would ask the Doctor for the results. She would not have them. I have changed doctors so many times, and now we are at another clinic. The system is broken. The amount of Doctors is not enough to meet the need. I read that we need 63,000 new Doctors to cover the amount coming into the system.

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I am a medical provider at Golden Valley Health Centers who has been terrified to say what I truly think due to fear of being fired or retaliation by Mr. Tony Weber. The fear, the intimidation and the discrimination has to stop! How can I...

I am a medical provider at Golden Valley Health Centers who has been terrified to say what I truly think due to fear of being fired or retaliation by Mr. Tony Weber. The fear, the intimidation and the discrimination has to stop! How can I provide high quality care to my patients in an environment like this? The patients and the providers are suffering. Thank you so much Jonathan for publishing this article and exposing the truth for those too afraid to speak!

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  1. Eric

Mr Weber doesn't seem like a good fit for Golden Valley, Mr Price needs to be more reasonable as the head of the board and should work with the ones generating revenue, the providers, because without them I don't think these clinics, nay this ...

Mr Weber doesn't seem like a good fit for Golden Valley, Mr Price needs to be more reasonable as the head of the board and should work with the ones generating revenue, the providers, because without them I don't think these clinics, nay this organization will overcome this public humiliation. Has anyone asked when the last time something like this has happened at Golden Valley? The patients who are being seen at these clinics are definitely suffering and will continue to suffer; shouldn't that be Mr Weber and Mr Price's main priority? It seems like the focus is on making money; with Mr Weber's background in financial fraud that shouldn't come as a surprise. They paid the government 400K, but what we don't know is how much the grants were for, I'm guessing it was in the millions, so where did all that money go? Once again, someone's pocket! Mr Price is a contractor and Mr Weber wants to build more clinics, despite Mr Weber's background Mr Price is still defending him? Is there a possible conflict of interest there somewhere? Does Mr Price have a puppet for a CEO so that he can make millions from Golden Valley expanding???

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  1. Danny

Believe it or not: National Origin Discrimination is prohibited. Federal law prohibits many forms of discrimination based on someone’s nation of origin, culture, ethnicity or perceived ethnicity. Recent immigrants, including those living in the...

Believe it or not: National Origin Discrimination is prohibited. Federal law prohibits many forms of discrimination based on someone’s nation of origin, culture, ethnicity or perceived ethnicity. Recent immigrants, including those living in the U.S. on a valid green card or visa, are most affected by these laws. National origin discrimination is prohibited in employment, education, health care, and housing (in addition to other settings) and affects company policies regarding the languages that may be spoken on the job. I find it troubling that Michael Buda, a Chief of HR, who is an attorney, is not informed of this. And if Buda is, he is putting GVHC at risk of discrimination suits. Also, the AAMC’s Center for Workforce Studies estimates that by 2020, the United States will face a shortage of 45,000 primary care physicians and 46,100 surgeons and medical specialists. These estimates take into account an aging physician workforce, as well as the 15 million patients who will become eligible for Medicare and the 32 million younger patients who will become newly insured through the Affordable Care Act. Where are we going to get all these physicians? Ask Mr. Buda.

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  1. Frank

A Physician Assistant as a Chief Medical Officer? It is my understanding that a Physician Assistant needs to be supervised by a Medical Doctor, so how can someone who needs to be supervised by an MD supervise the MD supervising him? Conklin...

A Physician Assistant as a Chief Medical Officer? It is my understanding that a Physician Assistant needs to be supervised by a Medical Doctor, so how can someone who needs to be supervised by an MD supervise the MD supervising him? Conklin should step down and realize that he is not qualified to be a CMO.

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0 #95 SAVE GVHC 2014-12-19 14:44
Visit the Official SAVE GVHC Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-GVHC/318405991696896
Please LIKE if you think Patient Care and Quality is worth fighting for!
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0 #94 Dave 2014-12-19 06:56
@Tom Joad. Great Analogy. I would add that both the Fraud charges against Tony Weber (2010) and his bankruptcy are recent events. While Guest-Guest can argue that it’s in the past, to me it was just yesterday. I guess the real question is would the board allow Tony to run their personal finances? If the answer is no, then why allow him to run GVHC? This is breach of fiduciary duty or just plain negligence.
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0 #93 Guilty 2014-12-19 00:33
Smoking Gun. Why didn't you post earlier? @Guest-Guest and "The Facts". Guilty as charged Weber.
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0 #92 Tom Joad 2014-12-18 22:16
"A persons past is a persons past" and it is because of their past that they are who they are in the present and who they will become in the future. GVHC has become disconnected from its honest past while it's leader tries to hide his dishonest and shameful one. This is why pedophiles for instance aren't ever allowed to work in schools or around children. Because of their “past.” Sure you can argue about how people change till you're blue in the face but at the end of the day there's really nothing anyone can say that would make most people feel ok about leaving their children in the care of former pedophiles. Would you trust a former pedophile with your children? How about if they had only molested one child before and it was years ago? I usually don't respond to ignorance but when I do I try to do with with clever analogies.

I have only recently been introduced to Turlock City News.com and I must say this truly is a news source after my own heart. Very well written article McCorkell. I tip my hat to you good sir. I absolutely love the fact that you have provided links to the letters submitted to the board of directors.
It is this Assange-ian approach of reporting that sets you apart from the Bee and the Star and has earned you a place in my heart. A genuine peoples' paper. This is the sort of reporting that makes spectators turn participators. Keep up the good work.
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0 #91 Legally blonde 2014-12-18 21:20
"Exercise release endorphins. Endorphins make people happy. And happy people don't kill people." Guest what? People are no longer happy! So FIRE TONY WEBER and reinstate what was working before he entire organization burns to smithereens from the inferno!
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0 #90 Legally blonde 2014-12-18 21:14
"Exercise releases endorphins, endorphins make people happy, and happy people don't kill people." Guest what? People are no longer happy! So fire Tony Weber and reinstate what was working before this whole organization burns to smithereens from the inferno!
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0 #89 Smoking Gun 2014-12-18 19:32
Guest - Guest requested documentation? How about this from the Nov 21 meeting.

Weber: "there’s going to be a time where we are not going to be paid on the number of visits we do, but we are gonna be paid based on the number of members we have in our network."

I am sure you know how to connect the dots, especially if you have read Letter #3
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0 #88 Good Attempt 2014-12-18 16:40
Guest – Guest “I have not seen ANYTHING in writing of these so called outrageous request from upper Management.” 1. From your posting, it appears you know the providers, ask them. 2. Word around town is GVHC just put a hold on all new patients for 30 days. If you really do work for GVHC and have talked to providers, then you would not have posted the content that you did. Your content looks and feel like a professional PR firm blogging on behalf of Tony and his cronies. Hmm. I wonder.
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0 #87 Dr. Twisted Logic 2014-12-18 16:29
Guest – Guest. Be patience, my friend. I am sure more documents and more letters will be revealed soon enough, as well as recordings, transcripts, and emails and all that other good stuff. In fact, more have been provided to the Board than what was published here. As for smoking gun documents, both you and I will not have access to them. They will come out through litigation and most likely under protective order (which means attorneys eyes only). This is only the beginning. Now, to remove your foot from your mouth, slowly take your left hand (if it’s your right foot), and apply pressure to left and right and try to dislodge it.
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0 #86 Guest 2014-12-18 13:35
I don't usually respond to ignorance but here goes to all who responded to Guest. First off I don't work for Tony Weber or Dr. Diego I work for GVHC and patients in our community. With that said I don't get involved in hearsay battles. Every document I've read is someone's personal opinion about what they've heard or read. I have not seen ANYTHING in writing of these so called outrageous request from upper Management. A persons past is just that their past and I'm pretty sure many of you have your own skeletons. What's ignorant is to voice what you've heard or what you've read as factual. Again for those of you that want to make it personal and about ones education is low. Start producing for me documentation with the CEO's signature if things he's done illegal at GVHC, then maybe I'll listen. I wasn't saying let criminal actions go. If someone does something illegal you take it to court. That's what we have a legal system for. And this isn't about whistle blowing. For you highly educated ones look at the dates on the letters submitted to the board. From the ones that I have read they were all dated after Dr. Diego was let go. So is it really about patient's safety, fraud, or criminal acts? What is really sad about all this is that some of these same providers that are worried about patient care use to see between 30-40 patients a day and this was before Tony Weber. There were providers at some clinics making their receptionist put in more patients when they were paid extra per patient over qouta. However, now that they get paid the same amount no matter how many patients they see, some provides see 12-20 a day and that's on a good day. Again highly educated ones you tell me is it about patient safety or is it personal. So for all of you that don't know the whole story or the facts you shouldn't be fighting other peoples battles. I don't know Tony or Dr. Diego on a level that I can say whose right or wrong. So I am not on anyone's side. And for you to judge my character is ridiculous. I side with GVHC patients that truly need our services can the rest of you TRULY state the same. And by the way a few rotten apples does spoil the whole barrel if left in the barrel too long Mr or Mrs twisted logic.
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