Kansas hospital fires back in nurse whistle-blower lawsuit

Lawrence (Kan.) Memorial Hospital officials have addressed a whistle-blower lawsuit filed by a former emergency department nurse by saying the allegations are "baseless," according to a KCUR report.

Megen Duffy, who worked as a registered nurse at LMH from 2009 until she was fired in October 2013, brought the lawsuit, which is pending in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan.

In her lawsuit, which was recently unsealed, the whistle-blower claims the hospital falsified patient records to obtain higher Medicare and Medicaid payments. Ms. Duffy alleges emergency room personnel at LMH were instructed to falsely record electrocardiogram times as arrival times for possible heart attack patients. This practice was put into place to conceal "any time the patient spent in the waiting room, at registration or in triage," according to Ms. Duffy's lawsuit.

In its response, the hospital said Ms. Duffy's claims were based on "an incorrect understanding of reporting obligations." The hospital argued the treatment guidelines referenced by Ms. Duffy in her lawsuit do not support her allegations. Instead, the hospital said, "These guidelines confirm that emergency department ECG reports are one of the types of documentation that may be used to document hospital 'arrival time,'" according to the report.

LMH also took issue with Ms. Duffy concealing the whistle-blower lawsuit when she entered into a settlement regarding her termination from the hospital. At the end of October 2013, the month Ms. Duffy was fired for allegedly threatening a co-worker, the hospital agreed to pay her $9,000 to avoid the "nuisance" of litigation. In its response, the hospital said it would not have entered into the agreement with Ms. Duffy if it had known about the whistle-blower lawsuit that had been filed earlier that year.

The hospital is seeking unspecified damages from Ms. Duffy for "enduring public disparagement" caused by her "baseless allegations" and to cover the costs of defending itself against her lawsuit, according to the report.

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