- The former owner and two top executives of Sacred Heart Hospital in Chicago were convicted last week on charges that they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks (disguised as teaching contracts, lease agreements and staffing perks) to physicians for referring Medicare patients to the now-closed hospital.
- According to US Attorney Zachary Fardon, elderly patients were being bused to the sacred Heart emergency room from nursing homes up to 25 miles away, sometimes in the middle of the night.
- Prosecutors said the kickback scheme had been going on for 10 years before the hospital was raided by federal agents in 2013.
"Physicians need to make care decisions based on their patients' needs and not based on their own profit or personal financial interests," Fardon said after the verdicts were read. "The message of this jury is that a kickback is a kickback ... and it doesn't matter if you dress it up as a rental payment or a lease payment or a consulting payment. If you are paying for patient referrals, you are committing a federal crime."
All three were convicted on multiple counts, with each count carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Owner Edward J. Novak remains free on a $10-million cash bond pending sentencing in July.