The former medical director and founder of a Maryland outpatient surgery center filed a lawsuit against his former partners after he was terminated from his exclusive contract to provide anesthesia services at the center. The anesthesiologist was one of 25 physician-owners of the outpatient surgery center when he was allegedly forced out of providing medical services at the center in August 2012 (he is still an owner) because the revenue he was bringing into the center was less than the revenues that his partners were bringing to the center.
The anesthesiologist’s $11 million lawsuit was settled recently for a confidential amount on the eve of trial. The center had defended the lawsuit by claiming that the anesthesiologist’s contract with the center had been legally terminated.
The Maryland surgery center, which provides outpatient services for orthopedic, urology, podiatry, pain management, and gynecology procedures, opened for business in March 2004. The anesthesiologist was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the center as its unpaid medical director. Because the anesthesiologist did not have a practice outside of the center, unlike the rest of his partners at the center, he was provided with an exclusive contract to provide anesthesia services at the center and was not required to provide a minimum number of procedures, according to his lawsuit.
The anesthesiologist formed his own business entity that received a five-year, exclusive contract with the surgery center in March 2005, to provide all of the anesthesia services at the center, according to the lawsuit. The five-year contract had an automatic five-year renewal provision so long as neither party provided the other with notice that the contract would not be automatically renewed. In March 2012, the anesthesiologist received notice that the exclusive anesthesia contract was being terminated and a new anesthesia group was contracted to provide services at the surgery center.
The anesthesiologist claimed that he turned down proposed new anesthesia agreements with the surgery center because they would have violated federal anti-kickback laws (in part). The surgery center claimed it had no fiduciary duty owed to the anesthesiologist to employ him, award him anesthesia contracts, or to refer anesthesia services at the outpatient surgery center to him after the contract was legally terminated.
Source Matthew Wolins, M.D. v. Massachusetts Avenue Surgery Center LLC, Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Case No.: 369145V (filed: October 1, 2012; dismissed: November 1, 2013).
Sometimes, patients forget that health care in the United States is a business. The vast majority of people who provide medical care to patients are not volunteers providing free services out of the goodness of their hearts but rather are for-profit individuals who negotiate high-paying contracts that often provide other significant financial benefits as well (such as a share in the profits of the business) that help them maintain their expensive lifestyles, their status in their communities, and to enjoy the sweet fruits of their money-making endeavors.
Often, patients have no idea how much their medical providers are being paid to be their caregivers and patients have no idea the financial arrangements that their medical providers have negotiated with their employers and the corporate entities in which they have an ownership interest and through which they share in the profits (we are not talking about the nurse in the doctor’s office or the physical therapy assistant providing treatment in a hospital – we are referring to health care entrepreneurs such as the 25 owners of the Maryland outpatient surgery center discussed above).
Most people in the U.S. would agree that there is nothing wrong with their highly-trained medical providers earning a comfortable living, but many would be shocked and disturbed to learn the extent to which the expensive treatments for their life-threatening health conditions are being used to line the deep pockets of the high-end health care industry – just look at the ever-expanding massive health care systems in large cities throughout the United States that continuously and exhaustively build large, awe-inspiring buildings on their expanding campuses at such a mind-numbing rate. These massive health care systems continue to gobble up their smaller competitors, adding their well-known names to the previous identity of former community hospitals and medical practices.
Who’s paying for the massive expansion of physical facilities and for-profit services provided by health care providers? We are!
If you or a loved one were injured as a result of a procedure performed in an outpatient surgery center, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a medical malpractice attorney in your U.S. state who may investigate your surgery center malpractice claim for you and file a malpractice claim on your behalf, if appropriate.
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