Ex-staffers took patients, Care Group's suit alleges

June 19, 1992|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

A company that provides home care for Baltimore cancer and AIDS patients has filed a federal lawsuit against two of its former administrators, charging that they broke their contracts and illegally transferred many of the company's patients to their company.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore by the Care Group, based in Lake Success, N.Y., which owns nine home health care operations for terminally ill patients around the country.

It charges that the administrators signed contracts to run the company's Baltimore operation, then quit last month, taking the Care Group's patients and records.

"We at the Care Group are outraged that people would take advantage of critically ill patients," said Susan E. Carr, the company's national clinical director.

Officials at the Care Group did not say that patients would be harmed by the action. They would not say how many patients were under the company's care.

Home health care companies typically provide nurses who treat seriously ill patients in their homes.

The suit names Edith L. Creef, the Care Group's former Baltimore administrator; Barbara R. Conroy, former assistant administrator; Barbara Knapp, formerly a driver; and Care Consultants, the home-health company the women created.

The suit claims the women operated Care Consultants before joining the Care Group in October 1990 and that they continued to run Care Consultants while under contract with the Care Group and transferred the care of patients to Care Consultants when they left the Care Group. They also took nurses and other employees with them, the suit says.

According to court papers, the Care Group averaged 600 home visits a week to patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome, the human immunodeficiency virus and other terminal diseases before the women left. It now makes about 100 visits a week.

U.S. District Judge Frederic N. Smalkin has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday on a preliminary injunction that would require the women to return to their former employer with the patients and employees.

E. David Hoskins, an attorney for Ms. Creef, Ms. Conroy and Ms. Knapp, said no patients have been affected.

"To the best of my knowledge, all patients are continuing to receive treatment from the nurses of their choosing," Mr. Hoskins said. He would not comment further.

The Care Group charges the women with breach of contract, accounting violations, breach of fiduciary duties, conspiracy and interference with employee agreements.

It said Ms. Creef and Ms. Conroy were paid $342,000 in cash and Care Group stock during the 19 months they worked for the company. Ms. Knapp was not under contract, according to court papers, but there was an understanding that she would be paid by Ms. Creef.

The company is seeking repayment of part of the money and compensatory and punitive damages.

Court papers say the women were operating Care Consultants as a non-profit organization when the Care Group was filing papers to open an agency in Maryland. The women told Care Group officials that the company could benefit from their experience.

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