A registered nurse who accuses Marshall Medical Center in Placerville, Calif., and two physicians of billing fraud and illegal retaliation will see her whistleblower case go to trial, a Sacramento district court judge has ruled.
Colleen Herren, who worked as a clinical nursing director for specialty clinics at Marshall Medical Center from 2010 to 2011, alleges she warned hospital management about a lack of physician oversight in patient care, double billing for chemotherapy drugs, and billing for physician visits that never occurred.
Ms. Herren also alleges that she was fired in retaliation after she continued to voice her concerns about the questionable practices.
She is suing Marshall Medical Center, Marshall Foundation for Community Health, and doctors Lin Soe and Tsuong Tsai of El Dorado Hematology & Medical Oncology under the whistleblower provisions of the federal False Claims Act, which allows private citizens to sue on behalf of the U.S. government and share a percentage of any recovery.
Ms. Herren is also suing the defendants for wrongful termination of her employment.
Judge John Mendez found sufficient evidence to support Ms. Herren’s claims, but released Drs. Soe and Tsai from the retaliation claims because they did not employ her. Claims against the Marshall Foundation were also dropped over insufficient evidence, but the remaining claims will proceed.
Ms. Herring alleges that the doctors billed Medicare for treatments that required them to be present when they weren’t and for visits that never took place. She also claims they double-billed Medicare for single-dose vials of chemotherapy drugs by collecting unused portions and billing those to other beneficiaries.
“The hospital’s own internal documents show the allegations our client made are true — and we look forward to proving them in court,” said an attorney for Ms. Herren, according to the Sacramento Business Journal.
In addition to False Claims Act damages and penalties, Ms. Herren seeks damages for lost wages and benefits, and attorney fees and costs.