Spine patients want answers from Providence

Alan Condon -  

A Washington attorney representing dozens of spine surgery patients in a class-action lawsuit against Providence Health & Services Washington, has asked the health system to address community concerns in a town hall meeting, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin reported July 3.

William Gilbert, a partner at Gilbert Law Firm in Spokane, Wash., invited Providence executives, representatives from the state attorney general's office and the Walla Walla area community to the meeting. 

The class-action suit alleges former Providence neurosurgeons Jason Dreyer, DO, and Daniel Elskens, MD, performed medically unnecessary surgeries on several patients while practicing at Providence St. Mary's in Walla Walla. In April, Providence agreed to pay the U.S. Justice $22.7 million to settle allegations it defrauded federal healthcare programs with medically unnecessary neurosurgery procedures.

About $10 million of the settlement is for reimbursement of government health insurance claims, but none of the $22.7 million was awarded to patients who suffered from the alleged medically unnecessary surgeries, according to the report. 

Instead of being terminated and reported to authorities, Drs. Elskens and Dreyer were allowed to resign from Providence, and both were hired elsewhere. 

Dr. Dreyer joined MultiCare Rockwood Clinic in Spokane, but was fired in 2021 because of restrictions placed on his license by the state department of health, according to the report. Dr. Elskens joined Firelands Regional Medical Center in Sandusky, Ohio, in 2018, but plans to close his practice there and move to Michigan, the Sandusky Register reported June 8.

"We are committed to taking specific, concrete actions to ensure this isolated incident in Walla Walla does not happen again," Providence said in a statement emailed to Becker's in April. "Although the events in question occurred at one Providence hospital in the southeast region of Washington State, we initiated a broad and comprehensive internal review of our policies, practices and procedures to ensure robust compliance with government requirements and the delivery of high-quality care."

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