Health Scare

Employee complaints prompt investigation of ASU health center

Collins' main concern is with Erickson's use of a portable x-ray machine at his office at Sun Devil Stadium that Collins says was neither registered with the Arizona Radiation Regulatory Agency nor calibrated for more than a year (New Times confirmed this with state officials), and therefore might have overexposed student athletes to unnecessary levels of radiation. Collins says he performed a standard test on the machine, which Erickson obtained from Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix in 2002, and the machine emitted fluctuating levels of radiation. At that point, Collins advised Erickson that he needed "to get [the machine] calibrated," and that it needed to be registered.

Erickson did nothing, Collins says.

"If it's fluctuating, you don't know how much radiation you're giving the patient," says Collins, who's worked in radiology for more than 30 years, including 11 years at Scottsdale Healthcare North before getting a job with ASU in 2000.

All is allegedly not well at the ASU Student Health and Wellness Center.
Emily Piraino
All is allegedly not well at the ASU Student Health and Wellness Center.

Collins says the machine continued to be used without calibration or registration for several months after he performed the test. At least a dozen student athletes were given x-rays on the machine during the fall 2003 semester, according to documents obtained by New Times from an anonymous source. However, Erickson did not register the machine until December 17, 2003, according to Robert Cope, the head of the state's x-ray compliance team.

E-mails and other correspondence between Rimsza and Erickson obtained through a public records request reveal that the x-ray machine was not inspected until March 23, 2004, after several complaints by Collins. However, a medical physicist recommended that the unit could be used after maintenance and calibration.

In the formal complaint, employees also allege that Erickson brokered a deal with the Apothecary Shop, a Scottsdale company that owns and operates eight pharmacies around the Valley. Erickson allegedly told student athletes not to fill prescriptions at the Student Health Center and instead had them fill prescriptions exclusively at an Apothecary Shop location in exchange for a $10,000 donation to ASU athletics. Erickson also began operating his own satellite pharmacy out of the Intercollegiate Athletics building, employees allege, with drugs supplied by the Apothecary Shop, without ever having released a request for proposal from other outside pharmaceutical companies.

However, John Musil, the president and CEO of Apothecary Shops of Arizona, says that his company has never given ASU a donation. Rather, Musil says he approached a former ASU assistant athletic director and "structured a program with the university to provide medications for the athletic department," in exchange for free advertising in game-related marketing materials.

"I never gave the university a dime," Musil says. "I'm a University of Arizona alum."

As to the overbilling accusations, the complaint alleges "overbilling or fraudulent billing (i.e. charged for more visits than occurred or for activities not usually charged for as a 'visit'). . . ."

The complaint elaborates: "Contracts negotiated by Dr. Erickson for ICA [Intercollegiate Athletics] athletes/patients with Gateway radiology give a greatly reduced fee for special exams (i.e. Cat scans and MRI's) to athletes only. This allows ICA athlete's [sic] access to costly exams that the rest of ASU student health population does not have access to at these greatly reduced fees."

Jordan Widdes, whose stepson, Brandon Goldman, played for the ASU basketball team for the past two seasons, says players were billed $20 per game for an ice pack. (Goldman played 13 games; that means a potential $260 just for ice packs for a walk-on player.) Collins, meanwhile, says that Erickson was billing student athletes twice for visits -- once during the actual x-ray, and again when the students returned to his office with film of the x-ray -- a billing procedure Collins says is unheard of and unethical.

While Rimsza allegedly ignored employees' and parents' complaints about Erickson, Rimsza is accused of keeping all male OB/GYN providers out of the women's clinic, and telling former Student Health provider Ted Blackwelder in April 2001 -- who she terminated in June 2001 -- that, "College women don't want to see male gynecologists . . . especially one your age," according to Blackwelder, now 74 years old. Blackwelder says he settled with the university for an undisclosed amount, and is now volunteering at a south Scottsdale clinic sponsored by ASU.

One of the complainants, a woman, elaborates on the formal complaint. She says she had been assisting Erickson and the sports medicine staff during ASU football games. No more, she says, claiming that Erickson terminated her services on game days based on racial and sexual discrimination.

"[Erickson] told me that the only reason I was working football games was because of my [Hispanic] last name, and then he said that he didn't want me there because he didn't want women working with the athletic department," she says.

According to the complaint, "Dr. Rimsza has continued to ignore reported sexual, racial discrimination/harassment and abusive behavior at ICA. Staff has been told to hang in there this is a male area, the Ôole boys network.'"

(In all fairness, New Times did obtain an e-mail through the public records request of the university, which reflects that in April, Erickson requested athletic department identification badges for two women who would be working at ASU athletic games.)

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