HCA hospitals recently came under fire for its cardiologists who were performing procedures on patients that were unwarranted. After fully reviewing the claims that cardiologists were operating on patients who did not need surgery, the hospital eventually pulled nine cardiologists’ privileges.
Pulling privileges is a huge step for the hospital to take. Hospitals typically make around $10,000 from Medicare on EACH admission to the hospital and those admitted to a cardiology service will make the hospital thousands of more dollars after undergoing procedures that are typically performed on heart patients.
The New York Times reported that a nurse, C.T. Tomlinson actually observed cardiologists performing unnecessary procedures in 2010 and reported the incidents to the Chief Ethics Officer of the HCA at the time. Not only did an internal HCA report conclude that Tomlinson’s claims were substantiated, but additionally the report concluded that failing to renew Tomlinson’s contract appeared to be retaliation for reporting the incidents!
On the surface it appears HCA did the right thing by removing the surgeons from their hospitals. However, upon further examination, HCA was so unhappy with the nurse who reported the incidents that instead of a reward or some sort of compensation, he lost his job.
What kind of example is HCA setting by retaliating against a nurse who is trying to improve the hospital’s care? Reducing health care costs is a hot topic at the moment and reducing unnecessary procedures is a huge step in the right direction. While HCA will likely face a qui tam lawsuit for retaliating against the whistleblower nurse, they should face further penalties.
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