The Philadelphia Health Department does not keep track of prescription-drug deliveries, fails to remove expired medication from the shelves of its pharmacies, and can't account for more than 2,000 pieces of equipment, the city controller said yesterday.
Four days after the department's director was demoted in a double-dipping scandal, Controller Alan Butkovitz chastised it for "basic management problems" that, he said, have persisted for years.
"It's just evidence of a department really out of control," Butkovitz said in releasing a department audit.
In an Aug. 29 letter, Carmen Paris, then health commissioner, acknowledged the problems and said the department would correct them.
Acting Health Commissioner John F. Domzalski said that "there is an acute need of an assessment of accountability" throughout the department.
Domzalski was appointed Friday to replace Paris, who was demoted to deputy commissioner after an inspector general's report detailed how a veteran food inspector was allowed to remain on the city payroll while working a second job in Washington. That employee was fired, his immediate supervisor retired, and another supervisor was demoted.
Butkovitz said the department does no accounting of its $7.6 million in prescription-drug orders each year. It has no way of knowing whether drugs are delivered as ordered, whether the correct price was charged, or whether supplies have been depleted by theft.
"You can't have a $7.6 million inventory and not have an audit, according to industry standards," said Domzalski, who promised to "invigorate" the department's sense of accountability. Domzalski, who retired in 2005 after three years as commissioner, said such accounting was done while he was in office.
The department also couldn't account for 2,044 items going back to 1992 with a total value of $3.3 million. These included 141 computers, 112 hospital beds and 62 wheelchairs, Butkovitz said.
Some missing items represent only a failure to account for equipment that the department throws out or otherwise gets rid of, Butkovitz said, but "there is the potential that there's a lot of stuff missing."
The audit also found six expired bottles of prescription medicine in one health center. Domzalski called that a "dangerous" practice that would end.
Butkovitz noted that city pharmacists, who fill three times the number of prescriptions of their commercial peers, were often too busy to properly keep track of their stocks. Domzalski said that before July, when salaries were raised, city pharmacists were paid about half what their private-sector counterparts earn.
Asked whether he could instill the kind of changes the department needs in the three months before a new administration arrives, Domzalski said: "We're going to get a darned good start."