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Audit blasts docs for turning conferences into luxurious family getaways

San Jose Mercury News, December 18, 2009

When physicians at Santa Clara County's cash-strapped public hospital seek professional development, they often indulge in "luxurious accommodations" on tropical islands and bill taxpayers for large cars to bring spouses, children, and even parents along for conferences-turned-family-vacations, according to a new county audit. The audit, which analyzed a three-year period, blasts Valley Medical Center—Santa Clara County's hospital of last resort—for what it called "abusive and noncompliant" travel expenses at a time when the county is slashing budgets and cutting social services. Physicians traveled to Canada, Mexico, Switzerland, Italy, South Africa, Puerto Rico, Spain, China, Aruba, Thailand, the West Indies, and the Bahamas, with costs averaging $3,085 per trip. Each year, county doctors spent $650,000 on educational travel. Continuing education units were pursued inside California just 8% of the time during the period analyzed.