In 2008, Fairview Park—a hospital in Dublin, Georgia—hired a new executive director of the cardiovascular program. This new department head immediately rejoined a national study that the hospital had dropped out of due to complications. Unfortunately, those complications continued, despite the new director’s warnings.
Did The Hospital Break The Law?
A patient at Fairview Park had died three months into the hospital’s first stint in a national study of angioplasty in small community hospitals. The subsequent investigation revealed that one of the hospital’s doctors had performed unnecessary interventional procedures and so the hospital left the study. Fast-forward to 2008, and the hospital’s new cardiovascular director wants to reenter the national study, but he warns hospital supervisors to put the doctor who had been investigated under heavy supervision. His warnings were ignored.
When the cardiovascular director saw what he interpreted as medically unnecessary cardiology procedures being charged to Medicare and Georgia Medicaid, he contacted the Department of Justice, which declined to intervene. So the director took the next step and in 2010, he filed a qui tam lawsuit under the False Claims Act.
Why Did A Major Georgia Hospital Settle A Whistleblower Case?
Five years later, Fairview Park’s administrators—HCA Holdings—have finally settled the lawsuit. The company is to pay $1.93 million to the federal government and $65,000 to the state of Georgia, so why did the hospital settle? As part of the agreement the hospital won’t have to pay back the billings to Medicare and Medicaid while at the same time it will not admit liability for the unnecessary procedures performed. That means any patients who sue the hospital for liability won’t be able to use the settlement against the hospital in court. However, the future patients of Fairview Park can breathe a little easier knowing that this type of medical tomfoolery will not continue.
According to the False Claims Act, the director who blew the whistle on Fairview Park gets 28 percent of the federal government’s settlement. This is meant to incentivize whistleblowers to expose the illegal practices of companies trying to take advantage of the system, and it works. To learn more about Georgia qui tam and whistleblowing, keep following our blog, and tell us what you think on Twitter or Facebook.