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Nurses Fight Against Fraud - Qui Tam Team

Nurses Fight Against Fraud

 

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Justice – finally – is served

By JAMES ELI SHIFFER, Star Tribune

Last update: December 28, 2009 – 11:29 PM

These days, doctors and nurses who provide anesthesia work side-by-side in the operating room and birthing suite, dispensing the drugs that keep patients blissfully unaware of pain.

Yet this relative harmony came after a decade of bitter litigation in which the nurses accused doctors and hospitals of defrauding Medicare and conspiring to keep nurses subservient and poorly paid.

Two nurse anesthetists from the Twin Cities sacrificed their careers to pursue lawsuits against Allina Health Care, which ended with a settlement and changes to Medicare rules that helped save the profession.

Despite the victory they helped bring about, Ladonna Schweer and Gayle McKay were left behind. This year, they had to sue their own organization, the Minnesota Association of Nurse Anesthetists (MANA), in order to make the group honor its long-standing vow to compensate them for putting their ideals ahead of their jobs.

When Schweer sat down in a Hennepin district courtroom in October, she had waited 15 years for justice. She was fired from an Allina-owned hospital, blackballed from jobs in the Twin Cities and forced to take lower-paying work in rural Wisconsin. Then she heard four words from Judge Ann Alton that validated all her feelings.

“Whistleblowers are always punished,” Alton said at the hearing.

The next day, the association agreed to compensate Schweer and McKay for their lost wages and benefits, plus interest. Schweer received $788,000 while McKay got $398,000.

“This was not a windfall for me,” Schweer, 58, said. “This was money that I lost.” Yet she said she would do it again. “I have a hard time looking away from an injustice that I see,” Schweer said.

Doctors vs. nurses

The October hearing in Judge Alton’s courtroom started with a nasty dispute between two groups of medical professionals in the early 1990s. . . .

SOURCE StarTribune.com

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