Le Figaro Lyon
The economic and financial section of the Lyon prosecutor's office is interested in a potential conflict of interest situation in the ophthalmology department of the Édouard Herriot hospital. The public prosecutor, Nicolas Jacquet, has indeed opened an investigation on the charge of illegal taking of interests and embezzlement of public funds against the head of this service, Carole Burillon, also municipal councillor and metropolitan opposition (LR), according to information from Le Figaro. This decision follows the report of the Anticor association, recently mentioned by Médiacités, and which we were able to consult. It is itself based on a report by the Regional Chamber of Auditors, published last autumn.
"A rather damning report pointing to simple and serious facts, according to Inès Bernard, lawyer for Anticor. This person intervened in the control and execution of an agreement for the use of state-of-the-art ophthalmology equipment, of which her husband was manager, "she summarizes. The person formally contests these accusations with Le Figaro. But in the half-dozen pages, on a report of 50, devoted to this subject, the magistrates of the chamber pointed out "a situation of conflict of interest" concerning the sharing of equipment of the ophthalmological service of the Hospices civils de Lyon (HCL) directed by Carole Burillon, for the benefit of a company whose one of the managers is her husband. Company called SCM Lyon Lasik after this technique of refractive surgery of the cornea practiced to correct laser myopic, farsighted, astigmatism and presbyopic vision.
No competitive bidding
These agreements allow hospitals that invest in expensive equipment but not necessarily used continuously to make it available to private practitioners for remuneration. In this case, the agreement has been renewed since 2010, when Carole Burillon was already head of department, without a call for tenders. If the law did not require it in 2010, it should have been the case for the last four years. "This company, whose manager is the husband of the head of the ophthalmology department, benefits from HCL equipment without any census or call for applications from other practitioners has been carried out," says the CRC. Agreements for one year, a duration that "does not ensure the amortization of investments," say the magistrates.
"The links of interest between the manager of this company and the head of the ophthalmology department, place the latter in a situation of conflict of interest which must be terminated without delay," according to the chamber. This has been done. The HCL specify that "the agreement was denounced on April 1, 2022 (...) without waiting for the final report of the Regional Chamber of Auditors". However, she was not subject to any disciplinary proceedings. Joined by Le Figaro, Carole Burillon returns the ball to HCL on the absence of advertising. "The majority of the signatory members in 2010 knew it was my husband," she continues. The agreement was signed between HCL and SCM of which my husband was co-manager. My name is not mentioned and I have not signed anything myself. The term conflict of interest has never been raised." The HCL specify that the provision of the technical platform will now be the subject of a call for expressions of interest.
Half a million euros in soaring revenue
In addition to the lack of competition, the CRC pointed to the rates of the agreement, which have never changed since 2010. However, an annual review was planned. If it had been applied, it would have made it possible to earn nearly 500,000 euros in additional revenue between 2013 and 2020, according to the calculations of the chamber on the basis of the activity identified and the rates such that they should have been revalued. "The HCL have renounced to their detriment and without any justification since that date, to 488,000 € of revenue," note the CRC. Facts likely to constitute a misappropriation of funds, according to the report of Anticor. "I do not intervene in the finances of the CHU. It was the SCM that returned the necessary sums to the HCLs. I had no way to divert anything, "opposes Carole Burillon, who disagrees with the calculation of the CRC, evoking "a theoretical assumption".
In response to the chamber's report, the SCM argued that the rates did not have to vary since not the care in question did not require hospitalization. "The decision to maintain co-use tariffs over the period was taken in the light of many elements (...) between the liberal practice company and the HCL, making it possible to maintain an attractiveness to the cooperative model set up by the HCL while guaranteeing the solidity of its financial model, "add the HCL by return of email to Le Figaro. "The rates of repayment in private structures had decreased because these laser platforms have developed a lot in liberal in Lyon between 2010 and 2015, embraces Carole Burillon. If the fees had increased, some doctors would have left to go to a private structure with lower royalties." She assures that this decision was in all cases a matter for HCL.
'Failure to follow-up'
The number of acts carried out by this company, initially estimated at 800, has also not been up to par, continues the CRC report. "Less than half of the acts provided for in the convention are carried out each year, without the Hospices having tried to remedy it by offering time slots to other liberal doctors," says the chamber. The equipment was therefore underutilized when it could have been offered to other patricians. In response, the hospital group ensures that partnerships could not have been multiplied anyway for lack of human resources.
In conclusion of these observations specific to the ophthalmology department, the magistrates of the CRC finally noted "a lack of follow-up" of the equipment sharing agreement. A medical committee was supposed to meet to organize the vacations of the private company, but this was never the case. And it was on Carole Burillon that this task rested. In Le Figaro, the HCL nevertheless ensure that "this agreement has been followed up during management dialogue meetings organized regularly with the heads of department of the surgery pole. This monitoring aimed at a regular evaluation of the activity (in volume of acts) and the associated valuation, making it possible to guarantee a constant favourable financial balance for HCLs".
With a diligence to say the least random, since the agreements were signed late for the years 2017 to 2021. As for the financial control, it could not be operated by the hospital group, adds the CRC, since the activity records were transmitted only to Carole Burillon.