Doctors performed needless and dangerous cardiac treatments for years at America's biggest for-profit hospital chain in an apparent attempt to bring in more money, the New York Times reports. Prodded by a nurse in 2010, hospital giant HCA uncovered cardiologists who couldn't justify their procedures at Florida hospitals over the previous eight years. HCA insists it took "action where necessary," but there's no evidence it reimbursed Medicare or Medicaid for the procedures.
The effect on patients is unclear, though one suffered a near-fatal irregular heartbeat and another went into cardiac arrest. Worse, hospital officials conducting the probe reportedly inquired about the bottom line rather than patients' health. HCA denies this, but the chain did settle a $1.7 billion Medicare fraud case in 2000, and has been under pressure to produce dividends since going private in 2006. As for the nurse who complained, CT Tomlinson, he was let go. "It bothered me," he said of the procedures. "I’m a registered nurse. I care about my patients."