Rush University Medical Center agreed to pay $1.5 million to resolve allegations that the 681-bed teaching hospital entered into prohibited lease arrangements for office space provided to two physicians and three practices, the U.S. Justice Department announced. The settlement stems from a whistle-blower lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act in 2004 by orthopedic surgeon Robert Goldberg and June Beecham, a former real estate director for the medical center. The Justice Department concluded that several arrangements violate the federal restrictions on physician self-referral known as the Stark law. The agreement stipulates that Rush does not admit any liability or wrongdoing by settling the matter. “Rush cooperated fully in this process,” the medical center said in a written statement. “Rush had initiated efforts to correct the problems raised in the government’s inquiry before the formal subpoena was received. Because Rush satisfactorily resolved the issues underpinning these technical problems, the government will not require Rush to have an ongoing corporate compliance agreement or corporate integrity agreement.” Goldberg and Beecham, whose lawsuit also targets other parties to the agreements, are set to share $270,760 from the settlement payment.
Seventy-six patients undergoing stereotactic radiation treatment between 2004 and September 2009 at CoxHealth for brain and other difficult-totreat tumors received doses 50% higher than prescribed, according to a February news release from the two-hospital system. The overradiated patients represent half the number of people who were treated using a specific piece of equipment during that period of time, officials said. “In the simplest terms, when the BrainLab stereotactic system was put into service in 2004, we believe that the CoxHealth chief physicist responsible for initially measuring the strength of the radiation beam and gathering the data used to calibrate the equipment chose the wrong measurement device,” said John Duff, senior vice president of hospital operations. The wrong setting and subsequent cases of excess radiation were discovered in September 2009 when a new physicist was being trained on the equipment, according to officials. CoxHealth has contacted or is contacting patients who received the excess radiation, and the hospital will pay for all follow-up exams, tests and care provided as a result of the incidents. “We also have reported this incident to the national hospital accreditation agency, the Joint Commission,” Duff said. Missouri does not require reporting of radiation treatment overdoses.