Hospital worker gets $20.8 million in employee rights case
A Florida woman who attempted to correct wrongdoing at Halifax Health will receive a significant award after identifying Medicare fraud at the facility. The woman is still employed at the hospital, but she will receive a $20.8 million payout for reporting wrongdoing at the hospital. Some workers are complaining that the payment is not in the best interests of employees, however, as they believe their jobs may be jeopardized because of the financial hit to the health care group.
Officials at Halifax Health contend that Medicare fraud never occurred at the facility, but they decided to settle the case in an attempt to curb legal costs. The woman had raised concerns in 2008 after identifying contracts that may have violated the Stark Law. Physicians were reportedly being paid based on the number of referrals they received, along with the volume of patients they treated. That type of agreement is illegal.
The woman also identified other problems at the hospital, including questionable statistics from a neurosurgeon and evidence that patients with chest pain were being treated improperly. Information also surfaced indicating that about 90 percent of one physician’s back surgeries were not medically necessary. Afraid that she would suffer legal consequences from federal investigators if that information got out, the woman took her case to the U.S. Department of Justice. She thought she could have been held criminally liable as the director of physician services.
The woman is still employed at the hospital because of employee rights protections that protect her from wrongful termination. However, she said that she has essentially been shut out of all decision-making. Reviews from coworkers have been mixed, with some vilifying her and others praising her for stopping the violations.
Florida workers whose employee rights have been violated may be eligible for financial compensation and other redress. An employment attorney may be able to provide more information for those who have been victimized. No one should have to suffer because he or she chose the ethical path at work.
Source: The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Whistleblower behind Halifax Health lawsuit says she’s been ‘shunned’” Skyler Swisher, Mar. 22, 2014