Providence settlement will cost millions

By on Wednesday, April 13th, 2022 in Columbia Basin News More Top Stories

WALLA WALLA – Providence Health and Services Washington has agreed to pay nearly $22.7 million to resolve liability from medically unnecessary neurosurgery procedures at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla. The joint settlement was announced Tuesday by the United States Department of Justice, Providence, and the state of Washington.

Between 2013 and 2018, Providence St. Mary Medical Center employed two neurosurgeons, identified in the settlement as Dr. A and Dr. B, who were paid based on a productivity metric that provided them a financial incentive to perform more surgical procedures of greater complexity. Between 2014 and 2018, Dr. A was one of the highest-producing neurosurgeons in the entire Providence system. Between 2014 and 2017, based on the productivity metric, Providence paid Dr. A between $2.5 million and $2.9 million per year.

“Providence placed the two surgeons on leave after questions about their practices arose, and they left Providence in 2017 and 2018, respectively,” Kathleen Obenland, hospital spokeswoman, said.

According to court documents, the case began in January 2020, when a whistleblower filed a qui tam complaint under seal in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. When a whistleblower files a qui tam complaint, the False Claims Act requires the United States to investigate the allegations and elect whether to intervene. The whistleblower is then able to share in any recovery.

The whistleblower was the former medical director of neurosurgery at Providence St. Mary. Pursuant to the settlement agreement, the whistleblower will receive $4,197,734 of the total settlement amount.