Missouri hospital to pay physician $751k in wrongful termination suit

Mercy Springfield (Mo.) was ordered Friday to pay $751,000 to a physician who sued the nonprofit health system in 2013, claiming she was fired for raising concerns over the hospital's treatment and billing practices, according to the Springfield News-Leader.

In her lawsuit, Shanti Yerra, MD, claims she repeatedly objected to unnecessary treatment and billing practices at Mercy to no avail.

One instance of unnecessary treatment allegedly occurred in March 2012. According to Dr. Yerra's lawsuit, she admitted a patient for surgery to be performed by another physician. Although Dr. Yerra indicated the patient was cleared for surgery and did not require a cardiology consult, another physician called for the consult, resulting in increased charges to Medicare.

Dr. Yerra reported the incident to Mercy's manager of medical staff services and expressed that she would report "unnecessary treatment and billing practices to the proper authorities," according to the lawsuit.

In August 2012, the health system's chair of internal medicine recommended Dr. Yerra keep her job "only if she would not make any more…public threats or criticism of healthcare delivery or her peers," according to the lawsuit.

Dr. Yerra was fired in January 2013, and she filed her wrongful termination lawsuit that same month.

On Friday, a jury ruled in favor of Dr. Yerra, and the hospital was ordered to pay her $1,000 in actual damages and $750,000 in punitive damages.

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