A former medical director for a HealthSouth Corp. hospital was awarded more than $1.5 million in a wrongful termination lawsuit in which she alleged that the hospital fired her after she refused to arbitrarily increase her patient census. Helen Schilling was fired in 2000 after working for 10 years as the medical director at 79-bed HealthSouth Houston Rehabilitation Institute, according to her attorney, Tommy Fibich. Hospital administrators began pressuring physicians to increase their patient census after HealthSouth purchased the hospital in 1998, Fibich said. Schilling was terminated in June of 2000 after refusing to increase her personal patient census to an average of 20, he said. The jury, in Conroe, Texas, awarded Schilling $1.05 million in punitive damages, $400,000 in lost wages and $65,000 for mental anguish. HealthSouth spokesman Andy Brimmer said the company will ask the judge to disregard the jury's verdict. "The evidence shows that HealthSouth did not engage in any illegal or unethical conduct," Brimmer said. "In the end, we're confident HealthSouth will be vindicated."
In other HealthSouth news, the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana has filed a lawsuit alleging that HealthSouth's directors allowed founder Richard Scrushy and his business associates to enrich themselves in lopsided transactions with the company. The lawsuit, filed in New Castle County Chancery Court, Wilmington, Del., seeks to force HealthSouth to schedule a shareholders' meeting so new directors can be chosen. Fourteen HealthSouth officials have entered into plea agreements with the federal government in an ongoing investigation of alleged fraud at the Birmingham, Ala.-based company. -- by Mark Taylor and Vince Galloro