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The Christ Hospital Settles Whistleblower Suit with Feds

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, February 3, 2010

The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati has agreed to settle a federal whistleblower suit alleging that the hospital ran a kickback scheme with physicians to funnel patients to its cardiac care center.

Officials with The Christ Hospital admitted no guilt in the settlement, which could cost in the range of $100 million.

"We cannot comment on any terms of the settlement because the parties are currently finalizing the written agreement; however, this settlement allows the hospital to avoid the risk of the multi-billion dollar award sought by the government," says Heather Adkins, chief strategy officer at The Christ Hospital, in a written statement.

"While we continue to disagree with the government's allegations that the assignment of physicians to our cardiac testing station resulted in the inducement of local cardiologists to refer patients to the hospital, we decided to contribute to the joint settlement agreement with the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati instead of risking a potential catastrophic judgment that could jeopardize our ability to provide service to this community," Adkins says.

Officials from the Healthcare Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, the hospital's former parent company, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Christ Hospital withdrew from the alliance in 2008.

Glenn Whitaker, the attorney for plaintiff Harry Fry, MD, a retired cardiologist who filed the whistleblower suit in 2003, says the settlement could be in the range of $100 million, and Fry could collect up to 25% of the settlement.

"This is a real big one. I don't want to give you precise numbers, but that is pretty accurate," Whitaker says of the estimated $100 million figure. "The number that is the subject of this settlement speaks for itself."

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