$1.2M Settlement in Anesthesia Supervision Case
Whistleblower lawsuit cited University of California-Irvine for insufficient oversight of CRNAs and residents.
Published: March 27, 2013
A former professor and anesthesiologist's lawsuit against the University of California-Irvine over the inadequate supervision of anesthesia services has resulted in a $1.2 million settlement with the federal government.
The California Board of Regents, which governs the statewide university system, has agreed to the settlement to resolve allegations that submitting claims which involved insufficient anesthesia supervision violated Medicare and Medicaid policy as well as the federal False Claims Act.
According to the plaintiff, Dennis O'Connor, MD, who filed the lawsuit in 2008, anesthesia in the university's surgical facilities was often delivered by CRNAs or residents without supervision by anesthesiologists. Case records were filled out to indicate an anesthesiologist's presence, even though he may have been in another building at the time. Patients' post-op evaluations were also often conducted by unsupervised and unlicensed residents, the lawsuit stated. Billing Medicare and Medicaid for unsupervised anesthesia constituted unrendered services, and thus violated federal regulations.
"When patients were most vulnerable, UCI placed profits over patient safety," said Dr. O'Connor's attorney, Louis Cohen, in a press release.
In a statement, the Board of Regents notes that the university's anesthesia department saw a leadership change and process review in 2008. "The department now uses an electronic recordkeeping system that does not permit the practices alleged," it says. The board adds, however, that the settlement agreement is not an admission of liability.
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