CarePay trial: Witness says 'half dozen' companies wanted CarePay deal
About “half a dozen” companies, both local and international, had expressed interest on bidding for a Cayman Islands public hospital patient swipe-card contract prior to the contract being awarded to a Jamaican-St.Lucian firm, according to the former chief information officer for the local Health Services Authority.
Dale Sanders testified via video link Wednesday that he was “reprimanded” by former Cayman Islands Health Services Authority board chairman Canover Watson in late 2010 when Watson learned Mr. Sanders had put government bid request documents on his healthcare blog.
Mr. Sanders said he wanted to expand the bid process as much as possible so that the HSA and the Cayman Islands National Insurance Company could “benefit from that competition.”
Mr. Sanders said Watson called him into a meeting later and reprimanded him “quite harshly” for putting out the contract bids for a real-time healthcare claims verification system in such a way. Mr. Sanders said he was told the bids were intended only to be advertised locally.
However, one of the interested companies, Brac Informatics, was a local firm on Cayman Brac. That firm, along with several other companies that had contacted him, were unable to bid because of what Mr. Sanders referred to as an “unprecedented” short turnaround time on request for proposal documents.
Watson has been accused by Crown prosecutors of personally benefiting from the eventual award of the CarePay swipe-card contract to St. Lucia’s Health Adjudication Systems and its local partner, AIS (Advanced Integrated Systems) Cayman Ltd. – an award he is alleged to have directed as chairman of the HSA board.
Watson and his business partner Jeffrey Webb are alleged to have set up AIS Cayman Ltd. as a front company to cover up their involvement in the scheme.
In addition, Watson and his former personal assistant Miriam Rodriguez are accused of transferring criminal property, namely funds from the CarePay contract, to Webb. Both Watson and Rodriguez have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
During court testimony Wednesday, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran revealed that another company, Caribbean Network Solutions, had expressed interest in the hospital contract. Mr. Sanders said he was unaware of this particular company, although he did list the names of several others.
Questions posed by that company in relation to the government’s request for proposals on the hospital contract were sent to Watson, Mr. Moran said. These were technical questions which, Mr. Moran said, an IT expert like Dale Sanders would have been able to assist Watson in answering.
Reviewing the list of questions from the Caribbean firm, Mr. Sanders said: “These are good questions. I’ve never seen this before.”
Referring to AIS Jamaica’s (the sister company of St. Lucia’s Health Adjudication Systems) eventual bid on the hospital contract, Mr. Sanders described it as “terrible.” He said responses given by the company were vague, non-specific and incomplete.
“It was by far the worst response, on paper, of any of the proposals,” Mr. Sanders said.
During a November 2010 evaluation of the two competing bids that were received for the hospital contract, Mr. Sanders said he was dismissed from a technical committee meeting by Watson after he stepped out of the proceedings for “no more than 15 minutes” to deal with an IT emergency at the public hospital’s radiology department.
Mr. Sanders said he thought this was “inappropriate,” and that he attempted to stay in the room following a break in the meeting.
“We went back into the committee and Mr. Watson announced that I would be dismissed,” Mr. Sanders said. “I felt it was completely inappropriate and would not benefit [the process of making] a good decision for HSA or CINICO.”
Watson’s attorneys had not cross-examined Mr. Sanders as of press time Wednesday. However, his defense team has suggested during other witness testimony that the CarePay claims adjudication system offered by AIS Jamaica was a “unique” system that offered precisely what the local healthcare industry required.
The final contract for the CarePay patient swipe-card system between the HSA, CINICO, the Jamaican-St. Lucian company and its local partner AIS Cayman Ltd. was never reviewed by government lawyers in the solicitor general’s office, jurors heard late Tuesday.
Instead, the contract was perused by then-HSA board member and Maples law firm partner Wanda Ebanks, who testified Tuesday that she was asked by Watson to look at the agreement “as a member of the board” to assist her fellow board members.
Ms. Ebanks, under prompting by Mr. Moran, testified that she was surprised to get the contract “at the last minute,” but denied suggestions by defense attorney Trevor Burke, QC, that she received the contract because she was Watson’s “go-to lawyer.”
Mr. Moran said the proposed contract between AIS Cayman Ltd. and the health services agencies appeared to “bind the hands” of the public hospital system, requiring it to spend more than US$13 million over five years and requiring another five-year renewal unless either party issued a termination notice a year prior to the contract’s end.
Ms. Ebanks testified that she had written a note during her examination of the AIS contract that indicated “it’s even worse than Cerner” – the U.S.-based firm that previously handled HSA’s patient information services.
Mr. Burke objected, stating that Cerner’s previous contract could not be compared to AIS because the AIS deal provided a “get out” clause for both parties where Cerner’s did not. He also alleged that Mr. Moran was “leading” Ms. Ebanks to her answers. “This is just not an appropriate examination of the witness,” he said.
At this point, Judge Michael Mettyear intervened in the proceedings, seeking to clarify what would have been expected to occur if AIS Cayman did not agree to contract changes Ms. Ebanks suggested.
“I would expect it would have been sent back to the board,” Ms. Ebanks said, stating she did not review it in detail again. A version finalized on Dec. 5, 2010 was approved by the HSA board on Dec. 7 and signed by government on Dec. 21.