An Oak Park doctor with hundreds of nursing home residents under his care was recently convicted of sending patients to a substandard hospital in exchange for free staff. Dr. Kuchipudi was sentenced to two years in prison for sending hundreds of his nursing home-bound patients to Sacred Heart Hospital, earning him the nickname King of Nursing Homes.
He is the tenth defendant convicted in the Medicare fraud investigation against Sacred Heart Hospital.
Trial evidence revealed Dr. Kuchipudi arranged for his nursing home patients to be transported long distances to Sacred Heart in exchange for free staff. Starting in 2009, Sacred Heart hired physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners to work solely for Kuchipudi at the hospital, his clinic, and at nursing homes. Kuchipudi then billed Medicare for the free labor, earning nearly $2 million over three years.
It also set up a system for private ambulances to take his patients to Sacred Heart regardless of distance or health need. These ambulances took residents past higher quality, less expensive, and better-equipped hospitals to get to Sacred Heart.
Dr. Kuchipudi faces a severe sentencing to deter doctors from Medicare fraud and because his patients were physically and mentally impaired nursing home residents, dependent on him for care.Yet he sent them to a hospital he knew to be subpar. Kuchipudi is even recorded calling Sacred Heart’s chief surgeon a “butcher.”
The so-called King of Nursing Homes sent his patients to Sacred Heart not because it was best for his patients, but because he had an illegal deal with its administrators that defrauded taxpayers out of millions of dollars.
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This deal subjected his patients to negligence and malpractice in their most vulnerable moments. These patients were suffering heart attacks, strokes and embolisms – conditions that require immediate attention. One patient had to wait in Sacred Heart for nine days because they didn’t have the right equipment for his hip surgery. He would have received the surgery immediately at several other Chicago hospitals.
Nursing Home Medicare Fraud
Sacred Heart Hospital closed in 2013 amid charges of malpractice and Medicare fraud. Doctors would implant patients with unnecessary devices and perform needless tests, treatments and surgeries to boost the payments it received from Medicare.
Medicare fraud runs rampant in the nursing home industry. Federal investigations show that nursing homes receive far more in Medicare payments than they pay in actual care.
This is just one way the industry pursues profits over patients: subjecting residents to long hours of expensive therapy they don’t medically need, and that could cause physical and mental harm, just so the facility can qualify for high payments.
This affects real residents in real ways. In one example, medical records show that a resident in hospice care asked to discontinue therapy, as is her right. Despite her wishes, the facility subjected her to physical therapy five days a week for five weeks. This not only harmed her physically, but robbed her of fundamental right to control over her own care and wellbeing.
Nursing homes profit most when they make their residents undergo as much therapy as they can physically tolerate. This causes undue harm to residents, resulting in falls, fractures, brain bleeds and other life-threatening emergencies. If a nursing home is purposefully over-treating its residents and it causes a serious injury or death, they could be legally responsible.
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