Fraud and Abuse: Case against SC hospital goes forward

April 18, 2008

A federal judge has given the Justice Department permission to bring a lawsuit against Tuomey Healthcare System in Sumter, SC for paying physicians to perform surgeries at its facilities instead of at doctors' own outpatient clinics.

Something smelled funny at Tuomey Healthcare System to Michael Drakeford, a sports medicine orthopedist in Sumter, SC. The Justice Department agreed. Now, a federal judge has given the government a green light to bring a lawsuit against the 266-bed hospital.

Drakeford, who initiated the suit against Tuomey, is still on staff at the hospital, which is located just miles from his practice. According to an article in The State, a newspaper covering the state capital of Columbia and its nearby suburbs, Drakeford's lawsuit accused the hospital of paying physicians to perform surgeries at Tuomey's facilities instead of at the doctors' own outpatient clinics. "Every time there was a referral, the hospital got money and the doctor got money," said assistant US Attorney Norman Acker. Even if Tuomey decides to settle the case rather than risk a lengthy court battle, the result could be worth millions of dollars to the government, as well as represent a possible windfall to Drakeford as the whistle-blower.