LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — This week’s agreement for Saint Joseph London to pay $16.5 million to the government is just one step being taken to resolve claims of unnecessary procedures at the hospital.
In a statement released on Wednesday, officials with Kentucky One Health — the owning corporation for Saint Joseph facilities — outlined some of the actions in place to ensure that patient well-being remains the hospital’s top priority.
The press release states the London hospital reached an agreement with federal and state governments to settle “all potential civil claims brought, or could have been brought” by the U.S. government regarding “the past relationship with some cardiologists who no longer practice at the hospital.” The $16.5 million settlement, which did not implicate any violation of the law by Saint Joseph London, was so done, according to the press release, “in order to avoid the expense and uncertainty of prolonged litigation, and to allow the hospital to move forward.”
“We are committed to providing the communities we serve with safe, high quality health care performed with the highest of integrity,” said Greg Gerard, president of Saint Joseph London. “We are pleased to have reached this agreement so that we can move forward.”
The settlement also included the London hospital signing a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which allow the OIG to review the hospital’s procedures over the next several years. The reviews will monitor the hospital’s compliance with regulations governing health care. Saint Joseph London has already implemented several of those activities specified in the agreement, according to the press release.
“We will continue to collaborate with the Department of Health and Human Services as it follows our work in the coming years,” Gerard added. “The past few years have demonstrated the resilience and commitment of the team at Saint Joseph London. Now that this chapter has closed, we are eager to move forward.”
Over the past year, the London hospital has established new leadership, installing Gerard as president and Chief Medical Officer Shelley Stanko, M.D., Chief Financial Officer Christy Spitser and Chief Nursing Officer Chris Schweighardt. The hospital has also established a Corporate Responsibility Officer as a staff position.
The settlement, according to Kerry B. Harvey, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, is the largest district settlement against a hospital, topped only by a settlement with a Pfizer, a drug company, who settled in December 2012 for $42.9 million, for its practices in marketing Zyvox and Lyrica.
Harvey said the settlement is strictly for Saint Joseph London and does not include any penalties against the individual cardiologists named in the lawsuits. Harvey declined comment on any other potential agreements with other parties involved, stating the investigation is still underway. Nor does the settlement involve the federal criminal investigation against one of the former cardiologists, Sandesh Patil, who pled guilty to federal medical fraud and is now serving a 30-month prison sentence.
“This is strictly a civil case, and in civil cases, you settle for money,” Harvey said. “We want to point out that the settlement is with the hospital only and the investigation is ongoing.”
This agreement in no way affects the individual lawsuits filed in Laurel Circuit Court against the hospital, cardiologists, billing organizations which charges that “unnecessary procedures” were being performed at the London hospital between 2008 and 2011 and includes coronary stents, pacemakers, coronary artery bypass graft surgeries (CABGS) and diagnostic catheterizations.
Saint Joseph London must also pay three Lexington cardiologists — who filed a civil suit against the London hospital and cardiologists — $295,000 as part of the agreement. These Lexington doctors will also share a $2,458,810 settlement as part of the whistleblower complaint covered under the False Claims Act.