Saturday, August 13, 2016

Jury awards Corbin man $21.2 million for unnecessary heart surgeries at London hospital

Lexington Herald-Leader photo
A jury said Wednesday that St. Joseph Health System and its parent firm should pay a Corbin milk-truck driver $21.2 million in damages for unnecessary surgeries on his heart at its London hospital. The verdict for Kevin Wells was "the latest blow for Catholic Health Initiatives" in Kentucky, reports Andrew Wolfson of The Courier-Journal.

Two years ago Saint Joseph agreed to pay the federal government $16.5 million "to resolve civil allegations that it submitted false or fraudulent claims to the Medicare and Kentucky Medicaid programs for a variety of medically unnecessary heart procedures" at the hospital, Wolfson notes. "St. Joseph Health System merged with Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s HealthCare in 2012 to form KentuckyOne Health. The alleged violations covered in the settlement were before the merger," notes Bill Estep of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

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"Dr. Anis Chalhoub, who implanted the pacemaker in Wells, was indicted in June on criminal fraud charges of implanting the devices into patients without 'sufficient need or justification.' Federal prosecutors said the alleged crimes were related to a scheme for which another cardiologist, Dr. Sandesh Patil, was sentenced to 2½ years in prison in 2013," Wolfson reports. "He was accused of exaggerating the severity of patients' illnesses so he would be paid for treating them."

The jury in the Wells case in Laurel Circuit Court wasn’t told about Chalhoub's indictment or Patil’s conviction, Wells attorney Hans Poppe of Louisville told Wolfson. He told Estep that he expects the hospital chain to appeal.

Wells's lawsuit "was one of hundreds filed by patients who alleged they were the victims of unnecessary surgery and implantation of stents and other devices," Wolfson reports. "Two previous trials resulted in defense verdicts, but this was the first case in which the jury considered claims against the hospital, Poppe said."

"The verdict is the most recent of a series of problems that have plagued CHI and KentuckyOne Health, its Kentucky unit," Wolfson notes. "Triggered by a surgeon's complaint that University of Louisville Hospital, which KentuckyOne manages, is dangerous, a state inspection last month found that deficiencies in nursing services specifically endangered three patients. A dozen nurses and doctors also told state inspectors that nursing and other staff shortages put patients at risk." The company "said the hospital is safe and has made numerous improvements."

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