Beebe Medical Center is determined to survive

April 20, 2010

Facing dozens of lawsuits related to the sexual abuse charges against pediatrician Dr. Earl Bradley, Beebe Medical Center is fighting for its very survival.

During an interview Friday, April 16, hospital officials and a legal representative said every option – including restructuring through bankruptcy proceedings – is being considered.

Beebe - Bradley timeline
The following timeline information comes from a statement prepared by Beebe Medical Center about Dr. Earl Bradley and an interview related to this statement. The full text of the Beebe Medical Center statement, released Friday, April 16, is available at The information comes from an internal investigation of Beebe’s files related to Bradley.

1994Beebe hires Bradley
Beebe hired Dr. Earl Bradley as a pediatrician in April 1994, after receiving an application in January of the same year. Beebe engaged an independent firm to verify Bradley’s medical credentials and confirmed that he had earned his medical degree from Temple University in Philadelphia in 1983. Pennsylvania’s Board of Medicine confirmed Bradley’s license to practice was in good standing. Beebe also contacted the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners, Frankford Hospital, Parkview Hospital and Rolling Hills Hospital, all in Philadelphia, and found nothing negative about Bradley.

1996First Bradley concerns raised
Late in 1996 a nurse employed by Beebe and working with Bradley in his practice brought her supervisor a number of concerns. Those concerns involved Bradley’s interaction with female patients and included questions she had about his using catheterizations to gather urine samples, labial adhesion examinations and the way he had patients undress for examinations. She also questioned what she considered inappropriate comments such as how good a mother looked in a particular dress and how he liked to kiss and hug the kids. The statement said the concerns were taken seriously, several administrators were advised and an investigation initiated.

“The investigation was conducted by the hospital’s lead physician under the state’s peer review law for evaluating the clinical review of medicine,” says the statement. Peer review law sets up procedures for investigating concerns about physicians. Investigations remain confidential unless there is a negative finding.

After a review of the catheterization procedure by three physicians independent of Beebe, and contact with the American Academy of Pediatrics, it was concluded that Bradley’s use of catheters was within the mainstream of current pediatric practices. “It was determined that using catheters is the gold standard for getting an uncontaminated sample,” said Beebe Medical Center President Jeff Fried. He also said the labial adhesion examinations were deemed appropriate and another nurse confirmed, regarding the dressing concerns, that gowns and underpants were normal and routinely used during examinations. Fried said another physician counseled Bradley about comments inappropriate by a professional. Fried said documentation about the incidents, other than the catheterization investigation, isn’t in the record.

“Looking back at those 1996 concerns with our 2009 or 2010 eyes, they look a lot worse than they did when they were investigated,” said Jan McCarty, chairwoman of Beebe’s board of directors. “The nurse who made the complaint never mentioned sexual abuse and there was no sense at the time that was a concern.”

Fried said most nurses who work in doctors’ offices aren’t trained specifically for a practice, so she may not have been aware of what normal procedures are. He agreed, however, that she brought forth the concerns because she sensed something wasn’t right.

1997Bradley resigns from Beebe
Following the investigation, in November 1997, Bradley resigned his Beebe employment to take a position with a private practice.

1998Bradley threatens to sue Beebe
Bradley threatened to sue Beebe in 1998, alleging his reputation was damaged as a result of the 1996 investigation. He didn’t pursue the suit after Beebe agreed to pay $10,000 in legal expenses he racked up while considering the suit. Beebe also agreed to pay Bradley for time he would put in to help set up a sick child daycare center. The concept never gained traction, according to Fried. Between 1998 and 2002, says the statement, Bradley was twice elected by his peers to serve as chief of pediatrics at Beebe.

2005 AG subpoenas Bradley records
On April 7, 2005, a Milford Police Department officer delivered a subpoena to Beebe asking for any records of complaints or any disciplinary records regarding Bradley. It was later reported the subpoena pertained to concerns raised about improper behavior by Bradley at a practice he had established in Milford. Beebe referred the request to its attorney. Concerned that releasing the records might violate state peer review statutes prohibiting the release of such information, Beebe, on attorney advice, advised the Attorney General’s Office that it needed clarification of the request or a court order to comply with state law.

Beebe said it received nothing further from the Attorney General’s Office.

“In September 2005,” says the Beebe statement, “Beebe management became aware of rumors that the Delaware Board of Medical Practice was aware of a Pennsylvania investigation dating back to 1994.” Fried said the rumor was brought forward by Dr. James Marvel, who has served at various times on the Delaware medical board. “Our understanding is that the Pennsylvania board dismissed the complaint as an extortion attempt,” said Fried.

The statement adds: “The combination of the Pennsylvania rumor and the nonspecific Delaware subpoena prompted Beebe management to ask Bradley directly whether he was the subject of an investigation. . . . Bradley initially denied than an investigation was in progress but later admitted that he had heard the same rumors. Bradley maintained that the complaint was a personal vendetta and no more substantive than the previous inquiry into his catheterization use. Having no concrete information regarding the nature of the investigation, Beebe’s management made the determination that it was in the best interests of all concerned to impose a chaperone requirement until the investigation was complete. Three weeks later, a Milford police detective notified Beebe that the investigation had been terminated. The chaperone requirement was lifted.”

2008 Another Bradley complaint surfaces
“During our continuing investigation in 2010,” says the statement, “we first learned that, back in 2008, a Beebe-employed nurse learned of a third-hand account of possible abuse by Bradley. The nurse told the person making the claim how to report the alleged incident to the police for investigation and then followed up with the police to confirm that the report was made and being investigated.”

2009Bradley arrested, charged with sexual abuse
In December 2009 Bradley was arrested and charged with multiple counts of sexual child abuse. He remains in Delaware prison, unable or unwilling to post a cash bail of more than $3 million.

“With all of the lawsuits against the hospital, we’re looking at every option to make sure this hospital continues to exist,” said Jan McCarty, chairwoman of Beebe’s board of directors.

“This is a horror that has been visited on everybody. There are no words to describe it. I feel for the parents – I’m a grandmother myself. And I’m heartsick for the doctors who have to re-establish trust with their patients. In the midst of all of this, we have a duty as board members to this community to do our utmost to ensure that this institution is preserved.”

Last Thursday, April 15, credit agencies evaluating Beebe’s creditworthiness lowered the medical center’s ratings. Responding to the mounting number of lawsuits, one agency lowered Beebe’s credit rating from Triple B+ to Triple C while another put Beebe on a negative credit watch. That action means the hospital has essentially lost its ability to borrow money for construction or technology improvements.

Further, the action means Beebe may have to use cash reserves of $85 million to pay off $81 million worth of debt the hospital has incurred over recent years for a variety of projects. That debt was structured with variable rate bonds that mature at different times. Beebe Medical Center President Jeff Fried said the lowered credit ratings could mean the new bonds may draw no buyers, in which case the hospital would have to pay them off itself. That and the potential damages from lawsuits still coming in could drive the medical center into bankruptcy.

Michael Mustokoff, an attorney representing Beebe, said he is arranging a meeting with lawyers for families who have named Beebe in their lawsuits related to Bradley’s abuse.

“There’s a possibility that if we get all the parties involved together we can work toward some settlement,” said Mustokoff. “I don’t know how optimistic to be, but that’s what we’re trying for.” An information piece passed out during the interview explained: “The purpose of this meeting is to explore the possibility of cooperative efforts to help the children, the families, and our entire community who have been victimized.”

Mustokoff said Beebe Medical Center has $33 million in insurance coverage. “But there are real issues that exist with regard to that insurance coverage. Insurance companies don’t stay in business by paying out big claims. Companies have the right to exclude different types of injury from coverage.” Mustokoff said he expected a fight from the companies over the Bradley claims. Mustokoff further explained the grim realities of this case and the great financial uncertainty that lies ahead. “Any time you’re dealing with a situation as starkly criminal as this one, you have to be very concerned. There are the videos, the horror factor. In civil cases, juries will see every defendant in a very harsh light.”

The case involving Bradley includes the criminal charges against the doctor and the civil suits being brought against Bradley, Beebe Medical Center and a variety of other physicians and organizations.

Officials say nothing to hide

Last Friday’s interview included Fried, McCarty, Mustokoff and Wally Hudson, vice president of corporate affairs for Beebe. Also on hand were News Journal investigative reporter Chris Barrish and this reporter, who have been seeking information from Beebe about the Bradley case over the last several months.

Mustokoff said the interview was being held against his own legal advice, particularly because of his concerns about discussions with the insurance companies. Fried said Beebe Medical Center has turned over all of its records regarding its dealings with Bradley to Delaware’s Attorney General’s Office and feels now that it can release the findings of its own internal investigation without jeopardizing the criminal case against Bradley.

“We want to get the story out to the community,” said Fried at the beginning of the interview. “We feel there have been innuendos in the paper that we were complicit in Bradley’s crimes and that we’re part of a cover-up. This idea of a cover-up or a conspiracy is offensive to all of us. No one would have covered up those crimes. Bradley was quirky, weird, strange and was also considered very bright. Those fit together – eccentric and really bright people - but doctors who took their own children to Bradley had tremendous respect for his knowledge and his abilities as a diagnostician. Obviously he was a much different person than we all know. We – doctors, nurses and others at Beebe Medical Center – took children and grandchildren to him, right up until the day before his arrest. He was cunning and devious.

“As far as we are aware, none of the crimes he’s alleged to have committed occurred on hospital grounds or while he was employed by Beebe,” said Fried. “As a community organization, we’re obligated to let the community know what we know, and the innuendo that we turned a blind eye to what he was doing – that we knew about his behavior problems – that was absolutely not the case.”

Fried said Beebe Medical Center is establishing a blue ribbon commission consisting of board members, medical staff, outside experts and others from the community to look at all investigative processes and procedures. “We have to figure out what needs to be done differently to try to avoid this in the future,” said Fried. “Beebe Medical Center recognizes there are many significant issues caused by Bradley’s reprehensible behavior,” says the statement the officials issued. “People’s lives have been forever altered by this diabolical monster.”

Brothers Dr. James Beebe and Dr. Richard Beebe founded Beebe Hospital in 1916. Over the decades, the hospital converted from a private hospital to a nonprofit, community-owned institution managed by a board of directors. Beebe Medical Center employs more than 1,200 people and operates out of several different facilities in eastern Sussex County.

All Bradley stories »

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