Surgeon's harassment lawsuit against St. Joseph dismissed

Lawyers say it will be amended and refiled

May 05, 2011|By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun

A federal judge dismissed Thursday a harassment lawsuit against St. Joseph Medical Center and its parent company so the plaintiff, a cardiac surgeon, can amend the complaint, which alleges that the hospital is punishing him for refusing to comply with a kickback scheme and blowing the whistle on it.

Lawyers for Dr. Peter Horneffer, who filed the lawsuit in February, said they plan to submit a revised document within two weeks, correcting an error and fleshing out the background behind the allegations.

Horneffer is one of three people who worked with federal investigators to uncover an allegedly illegal relationship between St. Joseph and MidAtlantic Cardiovascular Associates, which was accused of demanding kickback payments from the hospital in exchange for patient referrals.

Neither entity admitted guilt, though St. Joseph agreed in November to pay $22 million to settle related federal claims against it, a portion of which went to Horneffer as a whistle-blower.

He declined to comment for this article, but his lawyers said that the St. Joseph-run enterprise that employs the surgeon has for years curtailed Horneffer's practice to punish him, and it recently cut his salary down to minimum wage — about $20,000 per year, given the hours he works.

Yet he still shows up to work each day to treat patients.

"He just wants to practice medicine," said one of his lawyers, J. Stephen Simms.

St. Joseph officials refused to comment on the allegations Thursday, saying only that they were aware of the dismissal.

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