Whistle-blower claims NY hospital staff abused patients to extend Medicaid payments

Alfred Robenzadeh, MD, who trained in Valhalla, N.Y.-based Westchester Medical Center's psychiatric unit, has filed a lawsuit against WMC and several of its supervisors, claiming hospital staff abused patients and defrauded Medicaid.

In the lawsuit, Dr. Robenzadeh claims he was retaliated against for bringing to light patient abuse and Medicaid fraud at WMC as well as violations of the hospital's academic medical center training program.

Health insurance plans ordinarily pay for up to 14 days of inpatient care for psychiatric disorders. Dr. Robenzadeh claims WMG's billing department alerted nursing staff when reimbursement was scheduled to stop. Rather than discharge child and adolescent psychiatric inpatients, nursing staff "provoked, taunted, incited or engaged in other behaviors" that caused the patients to act out, allowing nursing staff to then request a physician's order to drug or restrain the patients. This practice extended the patients' hospitalizations and increased the hospital's Medicaid reimbursement, according to the lawsuit.

After Dr. Robenzadeh raised his concerns about what was occurring at WMC, he claims he was harassed by hospital supervisors and ultimately terminated from the WMC fellowship program.

WMC said Dr. Robenzadeh's claims are "without merit" and "offensive," according to The Washington Times.

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