Former employee alleges New Hampshire hospital fired her for accepting Medicaid patient

A former employee is suing Nashua-based Southern New Hampshire Health, alleging the system's Southern New Hampshire Medical Center fired her for accepting a hospice patient who had Medicaid coverage, according to a New Hampshire Union Leader report.

Jennifer Lafond of Merrimack, N.H., said in the civil lawsuit that she was wrongfully terminated and that the hospital has an unwritten policy of denying and refusing to transfer Medicaid patients into its general admission population, the report states. She claims the hospital violated the state's Whistleblowers' Protection Act.

At issue is an incident in July. Ms. Lafond, an administrative house nursing supervisor at the time, said she was contacted about a woman with a brain disease who was dying and needed "the services of a hospital in order to be made comfortable with medication before her impending death," according to the report. She claims the medical director of the hospice provider authorized her to transfer the patient to Southern New Hampshire Medical Center. While in a room at the hospital, the patient received medication that helped with her pain, and she died the next morning, according to court documents cited in the report.

Ms. Lafond alleges she was asked to resign days later but refused and was eventually terminated. Her complaint alleges she was "scolded for accepting the hospice patient because … the patient was covered by Medicaid."

"Throughout Ms. Lafond's tenure at SNHH, the defendant had an unwritten policy of denying, refusing and/or avoiding the transfer of Medicaid patients into the general admission population at the hospital, even when the hospital had services that could benefit said patients outside of the emergency room," attorney Sean List of Backus, Meyer & Branch of Manchester, N.H., wrote in the court records, according to the report. Ms. Lafond "refused to adopt this policy, choosing instead to always aim to provide the best medical care to patients, no matter their source of payment."

The hospital declined to comment to the Union Leader about the lawsuit since it is pending litigation. But it did tell the publication: "Southern New Hampshire Medical Center can state, unequivocally, that patients are never turned away based on ability to pay."

"Not only has SNHMC been aggressive, passionate and vocal advocates on behalf of those in our community who are uninsured and underinsured, including our Medicaid patients, in 2017 alone we provided more than $3.3 million in free and uncompensated care for patients unable to pay," the hospital said.

According to the report, Ms. Lafond seeks a jury trial, along with lost wages, lost benefits, lost earning capacity, compensatory damages and legal costs.


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