Broward Health, ex-CEO battle in court over firing, violation of anti-kickback laws

lawsuit and book
A South Florida hospital system filed a countersuit against its former CEO this week over anti-kickback allegations. (Getty/eccolo74)

The North Broward Hospital District has come out swinging against its former interim chief executive, who filed suit against the public hospital system after she was fired last year over anti-kickback allegations.

The board of commissioners voted to terminate Pauline Grant in December 2016. She quickly filed suit (PDF), seeking severance of a year's salary of roughly $619,000 and claiming the hospital district violated state public meetings law when the board and general counsel discussed firing her prior to the open meeting.

But now the district is countersuing (PDF) and is demanding a jury trial, seeking damages and stating Grant doesn't have a right to severance because of illicit conduct. Among the claims: Grant violated the hospital’s code of conduct when she served as secretary of the board of directors at a long-term care provider that had contracts with the Florida hospital system.

The position on the board violated the terms of a 2015 corporate integrity agreement between the district and the U.S. Department of Justice to settle $69 million over allegations of healthcare fraud,  the News Service of Florida reports.

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In a statement issued to the Broward Beat after Grant was terminated, Rocky Rodriguez, chairman of the board of commissioners said the board voted to remove Grant after an investigation revealed probably violations of the anti-kickback statute.

Those probable violations, according to the countersuit, involved the manner in which contracts were awarded to orthopedic surgeons for Broward Health North’s on-call emergency department rotation and the process for distribution call coverage to physicians once on the panel.

The problems at the South Florida health system have been ongoing. An independent review last year described operational mismanagement, high senior management turnover, low employee morale and inappropriate interference by members of the hospital’s former board of commissioners into operational matters. The report described the problems were a result of a “cultural civil war” within the system.