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CRACKDOWN ON HOSPITAL TRIP CLAIMS TIGHT CONTROLS PLACED ON SPENDING.

Byline: Karen Maeshiro Staff Writer

LANCASTER - Antelope Valley Hospital is tightening controls on spending by directors when traveling for conferences or other hospital-paid trips, the subject of employee complaints to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Rather than turn in receipts, hospital board members will be paid a specified daily rate to cover meals and other incidental expenses under a new policy.

The per-diem rates will be those amounts currently allowed by the Internal Revenue Service, which vary from city to city.

``It's an attempt to control costs and to put a cap on things that previously had no cap, and be aboveboard so that anyone looking into it will know what to find,'' director June Snow said.

The board at Wednesday's meeting approved the new policy in a 4-1 vote, with director Steve Fox dissenting.

A District Attorney's Office spokeswoman says an investigation has been opened at the hospital, but would not elaborate on what issues were being investigated. The office has received citizen complaints about board travel spending, among other issues.

In two other 4-1 votes, with Fox also dissenting, the board approved policies limiting individual board members' direct communication with hospital attorneys and employees other than the chief executive officer.

Hospital officials said travel spending by hospital officials and employees has long been an item of discussion. A similar policy will be developed for employees.

``There are times when either employees lose their receipts. There are various reasons they may have partial receipts. (The new policy) makes it easier to administer the travel,'' said Leon Choiniere, vice president of finance. ``Since we are already following IRS guidelines for mileage, it made sense to go the next route for meals and incidentals.''

Receipts will still be required for lodging, Choiniere said.

The standard federal per diem rate for meals and incidental expenses within the continental United States is $31, except for certain areas where they are higher, according a hospital staff report.

For example, in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties and at Edwards Air Force Base, the per diem rate is $51 for meals and other expenses, the report said.

``We accepted whatever the Internal Revenue Service is for per diem. If they allow $100 a day in miscellaneous expenses, that's what board members are going to be allowed,'' Snow said.

Karen Maeshiro, (661) 267-5744

karen.maeshiro(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Apr 30, 2004
Words:394
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