Former United Medical Center CMO files lawsuit alleging he was fired in whistleblower retaliation

Julian Craig, MD, the former CMO at Washington, D.C.-based United Medical Center, filed a lawsuit Thursday against the hospital and its management consultants claiming he was fired in retaliation for speaking out about problems at the facility, according to The Washington Post.

Dr. Craig oversaw all clinical operations at UMC until he was let go in December 2017. According to the complaint, filed in D.C. Federal Court, Dr. Craig acted as a whistleblower when he testified before District lawmakers in November 2017 to expose "malfeasance affecting patient health and safety" and "submission of fraudulent statements to Medicare and Medicaid."

The lawsuit claims that Dr. Craig was fired in retaliation of his testimony and asserts he was not paid the full $320,000 salary agreed to in his contract, which is a violation of D.C.'s wage theft laws.

In November, Dr. Craig joined three other former hospital executives at a public hearing discussing UMC and its operator, consulting firm Veritas of Washington. At the public hearing, Dr. Craig and the three other executives testified against the hospital operator, claiming that many of the problems at the hospital arose from executives at the consulting firm.

In November, Veritas owner Chrystie Boucrée denied the executives' accusations, saying they were "remarkably self-serving and false narrative," according to The Washington Post.

Days after the public hearing, District lawmakers voted not to extend Veritas' contract to operate the hospital, citing the criticism brought by Dr. Craig and his colleagues as well as patient safety concerns and questionable medical care.

A few weeks following Dr. Craig's testimony, UMC board chairwoman LaRuby May sent Dr. Craig a letter stating his contract would not be renewed. The letter did not state a reason for the termination.

"At the time Dr. Craig received the notice of his termination, he had the support of the medical staff at UMC. UMC's non-renewal of his contract was not the result of any deficiency in Dr. Craig's performance," the complaint reads, according to the Washington Post. "Rather, it was in retaliation for Dr. Craig's protected activity, including his internal complaint about possible fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid billing, and his letters to and testimony before the City Council."

Dr. Craig's lawsuit also claims that Veritas eliminated positions critical for protecting patient health. Further, he claims the former CEO of UMC Luis Hernandez, pressured physicians to admit patients who didn't meet criteria of federal insurance programs to improve finances.

During the past nine months, there have been at least three patient deaths that followed questionable medical care at the D.C. hospital. In addition, UMC was ordered to close its maternity ward in August after regulators found unsafe conditions.

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