PITTSBURGH-Two pathologists have charged that Pap smear reports were routinely falsified at Magee-Womens Hospital and have sued the hospital and its parent, UPMC Health System. Most recently, Kenneth McCarty in a lawsuit filed in Pittsburgh Common Pleas Court on Jan. 21 alleged that shoddy practices and policies at the hospital led to misidentification of patients and mislabeling and that hospital officials intimidated and physically threatened doctors who raised concerns. UPMC officials said the laboratories at Magee meet and exceed all regulatory standards. "UPMC and Magee will not acquiesce to those individuals who are looking for a pot of gold at the end of a baseless and unfounded lawsuit," a UPMC spokeswoman said in a written statement. McCarty's lawsuit follows a Dec. 17, 2003 lawsuit by Susan Silver, a pathologist who charged that thousands of reports carried the electronic signature of a pathologist, even though a pathologist had never read them, said the attorney representing both plaintiffs, Robert Daniels of Braverman Daniels Kaskey in Philadelphia. Hospital administrators subsequently tried to cover up the physicians' complaints, and Silver was terminated from her clinical and academic positions, Daniels said. Though McCarty's clinical privileges were revoked, he continues with his tenured academic position at the medical school.
SCRANTON, Pa.-The U.S. attorney here last month announced that the Harrisburg, Pa.-based Visiting Nurse Association of Central Pennsylvania, a home health agency, would pay $685,000 to settle Medicare fraud allegations. HHS' inspector general's office confirmed that the agency also signed a five-year corporate integrity agreement and will require a report by an independent review organization. The settlement resolved civil fraud allegations that the agency billed Medicare from 1995 to 1999 for home health services without properly reporting or assessing the homebound status of the patients, in violation of Medicare rules. VNA Executive Director Beth Shambaugh said the agency cooperated with the government to resolve the issue. Shambaugh said the VNA settled to avoid the protracted cost of litigation. She said the agency never billed for services not rendered nor were there any allegations of substandard care.
PROVIDENCE, R.I.-A Rhode Island task force has called for reforming the state's healthcare system by giving the insurance commissioner a cabinet-level position, helping small employers and individuals buy health insurance and providing catastrophic coverage for those with high healthcare costs. The task force, organized in October 2003 by Rhode Island Secretary of State Matt Brown, spent three months reviewing effective solutions from other states and discussing new ideas about how Rhode Island could reduce costs while expanding coverage. "The longer we wait to solve this problem, the worse it's going to get," Brown said in a press release. Since 1999, according to Brown's office, Rhode Island has ranked eighth in the nation in terms of growth of its uninsured population. The Hospital Association of Rhode Island praised the efforts of the task force. Under the plan, small employers would qualify for "premium rate" insurance products if they employ fewer than 50 workers and have median wages of less than $30,000.