7 physicians suing their former employers

 Here are seven cases of physicians suing their former employers Becker's ASC Review has covered since June 10:

1. In August, Sioux City, Iowa-based MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center's former cardiovascular director sued the hospital in state court, alleging she was fired for reporting safety and malpractice concerns about a heart surgeon. 

Cynthia Tener, RN, said she reported concerns about the surgeon allegedly failing to get proper consent from patients. Ms. Tener alleges the surgeon also falsified paperwork and operated on patients in an unsafe manner. She claims her reporting of the surgeon to the hospital's ethics committee was a determining factor in her firing. Administrators allegedly told her she was fired for creating a toxic work environment, but allegedly did not provide any information about complaints against her.

2. In July, fired Indiana physician Kimberly Gatzimos, MD, sued her former employer, Lebanon, Ind.-based Witham Memorial Hospital, alleging she was illegally discriminated against after becoming ill due to dangerous office conditions.  

Dr. Gatzimos was employed at the hospital from 2000 until her Jan. 21 termination. According to the suit, she became ill with histoplasmosis, an infection caused by breathing in spores of fungus, and suffered from night sweats, fatigue, learning deficits, cognitive dysfunction and confusion, among other symptoms. The complaint did not say when the illness started or spell out the dangerous conditions in her office.

 Witham Memorial refused to provide accommodations for her illness, Dr. Gatzimos said. She is pursuing a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act and intends to file a gender discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

3. In July, physician staffing firm TeamHealth agreed to pay physicians $15 million to resolve claims that it failed to pay its emergency physicians under compensation plans properly. The settlement, confirmed July 28, benefits emergency medicine physicians who participated on TeamHealth's relative value unit compensation plans as independent contractors.  

The physicians sued TeamHealth and its subsidiary, Paragon Contracting Services, in 2017, alleging the company shorted its emergency physicians on bonus pay tied to their contracts. 

4. In July, ENT Mary Bowden, MD, sued Houston Methodist Hospital for $25 million, alleging the hospital defamed her for expressing her opinion on vaccine mandates. Dr. Bowden, who runs her own private practice and has privileges at the hospital, said it damaged her reputation and published defamatory statements to the media about her after she posted on Twitter that she felt vaccination mandates are wrong.

5. In July, an appellate court revived an antitrust lawsuit against IU Health filed by a former employee that alleges the Indianapolis-based health system engaged in anticompetitive behavior that decreased standards of care in the region.  

IU Health won a motion to dismiss the suit in November after a federal judge found the geographic markets outlined by Ricardo Vazquez, MD — the surgeon-plaintiff in the lawsuit — did not reflect the commercial realities of the industry. 

Dr. Vazquez, an independent vascular surgeon in Bloomington, Ill., alleges IU Health restricted referral patterns to specialists within its network after acquiring almost all the primary care physicians in Southern Indiana.

6. In July, a federal judge rejected the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's bid to dismiss a whistleblower lawsuit against UPMC, its physicians group and its chair of cardiothoracic surgery. The defendants are accused of submitting hundreds of false claims to Medicare, Medicaid and other government health programs over a six-year period. 

The U.S. Justice Department alleges UPMC and James Luketich, MD, chair of cardiothoracic surgery at the medical center, "regularly sacrificed patient health in order to increase surgical volume" and "maximize profit," according to a report from NBC affiliate WPXI. 

The case was originally filed by Jonathan D'Cunha, MD, PhD, under the False Claims Act. Dr. D'Cunha is a former UPMC cardiothoracic surgeon who now practices at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.

7. In June, Minas Kochumian, MD, paid $9.49 million to settle allegations from a suit filed by his former medical assistant that he submitted false claims to CMS and Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program, for procedures and tests that were never performed. 

 Dr. Kochumian admitted he intentionally submitted false claims for payment, the department said. For more than six years, ending in April 2018, he submitted claims for osteoporosis and osteoarthritis medication injections, tailbone cyst drainages, and the removal and destruction of various growths. Those procedures were never performed.

His former medical assistant, Elize Oganesyan, and his former informational technology consultant, Damon Davies, originally brought the allegations forward under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act. 

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