September 16, 2013
A “qui tam” lawsuit against the Vanderbilt University Medical Center that was unsealed last week contained a particularly disturbing allegation: It cited an incident where an unsupervised student nurse anesthetist allegedly was treating a sedated patient undergoing open-brain surgery who had turned blue and had a slow heart rate due to mismanagement of the airway.
The 71-page complaint, filed in 2011 in U.S District Court by three former Vanderbilt doctors, said the hospital has been defrauding the Medicare system for over a decade. The lawsuit details a billing scheme where doctors were routinely overbooked or double booked and were forced to rely on residents to perform critical portions of surgeries for which supervision was required.
If the allegations are true, then it would be one more instance where healthcare providers have put revenues before patient care. On her blog at Forbes.com, Phillips & Cohen partner Erika Kelton discusses two awful examples where patients suffered and some died allegedly because of the emphasis of profit over patients.(See “Medicare Blood Money: The Healthcare Industry’s Misalignment of Profits and Humane Medical Treatment.”)