A system spokeswoman did not comment on whether WakeMed's criminal situation was related to the departure, which is effective Oct. 1. Atkinson and hospital officials declined interview requests. No interim CEO has been named.
A news release from WakeMed cited “differences in the future direction of the organization.”
“The WakeMed board of Directors and Dr. Atkinson agree that the separation is in the best interests of both parties,” according to the statement. “For over 50 years, WakeMed has been proud to serve this community and uphold its longstanding mission of meeting the healthcare needs of the patients and communities we serve, and this will not change.”
Atkinson previously served as chairman of the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, the North Carolina Hospital Association, and the North Carolina Center for Hospital Quality and Patient Safety, according to a news release about him published in 2009 by the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health.
Data-mining by Medicare auditor Cahaba Safeguard Administrators found a high incidence of short stays for patients in WakeMed's cardiac catheterization lab in Raleigh, the Wake Heart Center. The auditor referred the case to HHS' Inspector General's Office, which concluded that between 2000 and 2008, the system was admitting patients who should have been discharged on the same day as treatment.
“Patients were routinely admitted to the hospital as inpatients without, or in contravention of, physician orders,” according to a statement of facts (PDF) filed with the deferred prosecution agreement.
The felony charge will be stricken from the record if WakeMed meets the terms of the two-year agreement not to commit any crimes. If the agreement is violated, the charges would move to prosecution and WakeMed could not dispute the facts of the case, which would likely lead to the system being kicked out of Medicare and, more than likely, closure of the hospitals.
U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle initially refused to accept the negotiated agreement last February, saying it was not punitive enough given the conduct that WakeMed was admitting to. After lobbying by prosecutors and WakeMed attorneys, the judge wrote that he changed his mind and approved the deal after considering how closure of the hospital would hurt WakeMed's patients and employees.
The agreement noted that none of the admitting practices resulted in patient harm or affected services.
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