Hospital Malpractice Lawsuit Unnecessary Cardiac Procedure at HCA Hospitals
HCA Holdings, the largest of the hospital chains in the United States, is facing federal probe for unnecessary cardiac procedures performed at many of its facilities in the country. According to an article published in The New York Times, hospital chain has been aware of the illicit activity since 2002, but failed to prevent such clinical practice until August 2012 when federal prosecutors in Miami and the Justice Department began scrutinizing heart procedures at 10 of its facilities in Florida and other states. HCA runs 163 hospitals in different parts of the United States.
HCA Unnecessary Cardiac Procedure and Complaints
Cardiologists at HCA hospitals allegedly performed cardiac clinical practices that they were unable to justify. An internal investigation in 2003 revealed that patients admitted at its hospitals were often treated for coronary blockages despite no detection of significant artery blockages. In 2008, HCA introduced new billing codes for emergency patients that resulted in a sharp rise in the number of such patients requiring enhanced care. Its hospital did not treated patients with non-urgent conditions and put in a system of flexible staff use that led to inadequate staffing, affecting critical care at the facilities. These profit boosting majors led to unnecessary procedures and complications at the expense of patients and forced them to stay in the hospital for extended periods and even pay more.
A physician at HCA’s Lawnwood-based cardiac catheterization laboratory was named by the hospital chain as its most profitable doctor in 2009. He allegedly performed catheterizations in many cases without stress tests to establish whether patients required the procedure, according to the Times article. In 2008, a hospital owned by HCA was fined $8,000 for delaying dialysis in patients. The same facility was again penalized $14,000 in 2011 for not documenting ordered lab tests and administering prescribed drugs. An investigation was ordered after kidney specialist Dr. Abraham Awwad blew the lid about complaints concerning unsafe dialysis programs at two HCA hospitals.
A decade ago, HCA paid more than $1.7 billion to settle Medicare fraud allegations. In 2012, a Florida jury awarded $178 million in compensation to a Clay County sheriff’s deputy, who suffered from severe complications and bedsores at one of the HCA hospitals lacking full-time nurses for wound care. The hospital was flagged by state regulators twice between 2008 and 2010 for inadequate staffing. According to a meta data report by Sunlight Foundation, eight of 15 hospitals nationwide with worst record of patients suffering from bedsore-related complications are owned by HCA hospital chain.
Studies on Unnecessary Medical Procedures in the United States
An Associated Press report (August 2012), quoting Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Dr. Steven Nissen, states that the system of reimbursement to doctors for tests and procedures performed by them is the main cause of the problem. The higher the number of procedures a doctor performs, the more the incentives that he gets. Americans undergo more procedures for non-emergency angioplasties, stents, knee replacements, and even in case of CT scans because of this payment system.
A 2012 study by scholars from the University of Arkansas claims that a large number of children are needlessly hospitalized in the primary care setting. The study, an analysis of 2006 Kids' Inpatient Database, has found that unnecessary pediatric hospitalizations in the United States could have resulted $5 billion in health care savings.
According to a study published in the July 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association, 15 percent of 600,000 stents and angioplasty procedures performed every year in the United States are probably uncalled for. Researchers looked into about 500,000 percutaneous coronary intervention procedures and concluded that many of them were inappropriate or questionable.
More Instances of Medical Malpractice and Unnecessary Procedures
About 300 medical malpractice lawsuits have been filed against Kentucky-based Saint Joseph-London Hospital. Doctors at the hospital allegedly performed unnecessary heart surgeries, including coronary heart stents and pacemaker installations. The state Board of Medical Licensure is looking into the plaintiffs’ claims that expensive surgical procedures were performed on them solely to increase hospital profits. The hospital was indicted by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services in 2011 for performing heart catheterizations without stress tests.
In January 2010, a medical malpractice class action lawsuit was filed against St. Joseph Medical Center, another hospital managed by Catholic Health Initiatives, in Towson, Maryland, following accusations that more than 600 patients treated at this facility underwent unnecessary heart stent placements. Many of those treated by Dr. Mark G. Midei were told to have severe coronary blockages requiring a stent while they had only minor blockages. In November 2010, the hospital paid $22 million to settle medical malpractice lawsuits.
In June 2012, eight people filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against New Hampshire-based Exeter Hospital, claiming that they were exposed to hepatitis C during their treatment at the hospital. About 600 patients treated at the hospital, from October 2010 to May 2012, were tested for the disease outbreak after an infected employee was found to have used his dirty needles on other patients at the hospital’s cardiac catheterization unit.
In June 2011, the Department of Justice ordered investigation against the Heart and Vascular Center of West Tennessee and Dr. Elie Hage Korban following complaints of unnecessary stent implants. A whistle blower disclosed that the doctor performed unneeded cardiac procedures and surgeries on patients and administrators did not take action despite knowing this.
In July 2011, a New York court ordered Staten Island University Hospital to pay $5.4 million to 63-year-old Robert Messina, who suffered from bedsores after being treated for brain dysfunction at the hospital. The plaintiff was found to suffer from these complications caused by inadequate care during his extended stay at the hospital.
Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center of Brooklyn, New York, is facing more than 100 medical malpractice lawsuits alleging negligent medical treatments. According to New York Daily News, the most common complaints against the hospital include medication mistakes, untreated bedsores, and birth injuries.