Mass General, Northwell Health pay millions to settle concurrent surgery suits

Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital and New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Northwell Health have agreed to pay millions of dollars to resolve lawsuits related to the practice of double-booking surgeries, The Boston Globe reports. 

Mass General Hospital agreed to settle a lawsuit for $13 million filed by an orthopedic surgeon who claims he was fired for criticizing the practice at the hospital.

Dennis Burke, MD, who now practices at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton (Mass.), worked for Mass General 35 years until he was let go in 2015. 

The hospital said it fired him for improperly releasing patient records, with names redacted, to a newspaper. Dr. Burke claims the hospital fired him because he complained about the safety risks of double-booking surgeries. 

Northwell Health has agreed to pay $12.3 million to resolve an investigation by the Justice Department after lawsuit was filed by three whistleblowers who claim a former urology surgeon at Northwell's Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City defrauded Medicare by billing for surgeries performed by trainees while he operated on other patients. 

The urology surgeon, David Samadi, MD, also reportedly billed for more expensive operating room surgeries that could have been performed elsewhere.

The settlement resolves claims against Northwell. The whistleblowers are still pursuing a lawsuit against Dr. Samadi.

As part of the settlement with Dr. Burke, Mass General offered him his job back and named a hospital safety initiative after him. Dr. Burke declined the job offer. 

"We are very grateful for Dr. Burke's efforts to shine a light on questions of surgical safety and quality that led to the development of important improvements in our institutional policies and improved the care we deliver at MGH," Anne Klibanski, MD, Boston-based Partners HealthCare president and CEO, said in a joint statement with hospital officials. 

Partners is Mass General's parent organization. 

"The government’s investigation involved a former Lenox Hill surgeon who, during his time on Lenox Hill’s medical staff, achieved quality results for Lenox Hill’s patients. Lenox Hill is proud of its exemplary patient care services and distinguished medical staff, and is committed to continually refining and enhancing its compliance programs," a spokesperson from Lenox Hill hospital told Becker's Hospital Review. 

"Dr. Samadi was present for the critical portions of each surgery and was immediately available to his patients. He prioritized the health and safety of his patients. The quality of his care is demonstrated by his outstanding record of patient outcomes," James Glasser, an attorney representing Dr. Samadi, told Becker's Hospital Review. 

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