Chicago’s Sacred Heart Hospital Abruptly Closes

Medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that the beleaguered Sacred Heart Hospital in Chicago just abruptly shut its doors. The hospital’s owner was recently charged in an alleged kickback scheme to defraud federal healthcare agencies.

We recently wrote about the Sacred Heart kickback scheme, which is just one of the many troubling accusations against the now-defunct hospital. After receiving a call of the closure, the Illinois Department of Public Health immediately sent staff to the hospital to monitor transfer of patients and facility shutdown procedures.

Five physicians and the owner of Sacred Heart, Edward Novak have been charged federally with several criminal acts, including but not limited to defrauding Medicare and Medicaid and performing unnecessary procedures on patients. Doctors would also habitually over-medicate patients, which they would refer to as “snowing the patient,” because the abundance of drugs would cause their eyes to roll back so just the whites were visible. Over-medication of this kind is often done in nursing homes to sedate unruly patients, though at Sacred Heart doctors over-medicated so patients would not be able to breathe on their own, requiring tracheotomy to be performed.

During a tracheotomy a hole has to be cut in the front of the neck into the windpipe enabling patients to breathe without assistance. Novak pushed for these procedures, referring to them as his biggest money-maker. Of course, they were unnecessary and incredibly dangerous, as five out of 28 patients one surgeon performed on died within two weeks of the tracheotomy (three times the average state mortality rate). The procedure can also cause obstruction or narrowing of the trachea and severe damage to the esophagus and lungs, which were apparently of no concern to Sacred Heart physicians.

These overwhelmingly troubling stories came to light only after a three-year federal investigation into the facility, which included undercover employees and secret recordings. Novak was arrested in April 2013, though he denied any wrongdoing and actually blamed the federal government for the hospital’s shut down. Medicare and Medicaid cut off funding to Sacred Heart amid the criminal allegations, which forced the hospital into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Center for Medicare Services stated that the decision was based on priority for patient safety and credible allegations of fraud.

Other Sacred Heart physicians have been charged with an array of crimes, including prescribing narcotics without a license. That doctor, Kenneth Nave, had his license suspended in 2003 for abusing drugs and alcohol. His license was reinstated in 2012, though he did not have the authority to prescribe drugs. Despite this, he wrote over 100 prescriptions for hydrocodone between November 1 and February 25 of this year.

This was discovered when a hospital administrator agreed to cooperate with the federal investigation and recorded a conversation between herself, Nave, and Novak during which Nave’s license status was discussed. Nave told the two that he knew there was a problem with his behavior, but that as long as he used the DEA registration number of a colleague, he believed it would turn out okay. Investigators ultimately seized more than $2 million in Medicare funds from physicians’ bank accounts.

Medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have decades of experience advocating on behalf of those seriously harmed by negligent or criminal healthcare professionals. If you or a loved one was seriously injured at Sacred Heart, or any other hospital engaging in fraudulent or simply inadequate practices, you have important legal rights. You may be entitled to significant compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress.

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