LIMA — Dr. Henry Gerad says winning a civil lawsuit against St. Rita’s Professional Services felt like a David versus Goliath victory.
The longtime Lima oncologist sat down with The Lima News on Monday and talked about the frustration he felt after being wrongly terminated by St.Rita’s. The court’s ruling came March 20, just over three years after his firing.
Seven of the eight jurors ruled in favor of Dr. Gerad in the civil case, said John Gonzales, the Columbus attorney representing Gerad.
“What it means is that St. Rita’s cannot come after him (Gerad) for any of the money it claimed he owed for over-payments. It means that they owe him money for terminating him outside of the contract or in violation of the contract. The contract states that there must be a 60 day notice of termination. Dr. Gerad was awarded $55,000 for those two months,” said Gonzales. “I do think he felt vindicated by the verdict.”
St. Rita’s Professional Services was asked to comment on the court’s decision. The facility sent the following statement:
“Mercy Health respects the jury’s decision in this case. We continue to value our relationships with area physicians and remain committed to providing access to the highest quality of care to patients throughout our community.”
Dr. Gerad had built an oncology practice in the Lima area for 26 years prior to joining St. Rita’s Professional Services. Being a part of the larger conglomerate, he thought, would enable him more time to spend with his family since he would not have the administrative responsibilities that running his own practice entailed.
Joining St. Rita’s Professional Services meant that he would be reimbursed by a work RVU (Relative Value Unit). Gerad had no base compensation, only the work RVU. The hospital bills by CPT (Common Procedural Terminology) codes, and for each CPT code, it can be translated into a work RVU.
“In most cases, there is no defined income, a base income, it’s all based on what you produce,” said Gerad.
Dr. Gerad signed a five-year contract with St. Rita’s Professional Services, which is an LLC of St. Rita’s Medical Center.
“What happened was the way the contract was written was to avoid any problems with compliance. In other words they can’t overpay you because it creates problems with the federal government. So, at the end of each quarter if you were not meeting your goals, then they were supposed to reduce the number of RVU’s that you were going to meet and also reduce your income at the same time, so you would be meeting the level that you were getting paid. This was supposed to be done at the end of each quarter. I received quarterly statements and I received annual statements. But they didn’t adjust me. It took me until March of 2014 when they came and said we’re re-adjusting you down, my RVU goals were lower. That’s all they said, I said ‘fine, I got it,’” said Gerad.
Dr. Gerad said there were times of learning a new ECHO computer system, learning a new chemotherapy system BEACON, which restricted his schedule and which caused him to slow down, among other things.
Just two months after that, in May of 2014, Gerad received a visit from Dr. Herb Schumm, who was president of St. Rita’s Professional Services at the time.
“He came in, gave me a revised contract and a promissory note saying that I owed them $415,000. In the letter it said, ‘due to our inadvertent oversights, we failed to re-adjust quarterly for 2012 and 2013.’ That’s what the letter said. I looked at him and said, ‘wait a minute,’ this was out of the blue. I didn’t have a lawyer present. I didn’t have the opportunity to think about looking at this. All he would say to me was ‘go talk to your lawyer.’ That’s all he said. I said what if this happened to you, how would you feel? He said, ‘go talk to your lawyer.’ That was it. So, I did,” said Gerad.
“In the 10th quarter all of a sudden you’re doing what you should have done all along, and it wasn’t any fault of mine that they didn’t do that. We tried to negotiate to say that we don’t believe this should be handled in this fashion. That went on for months until December of 2014, and we were getting no where and that’s when I initiated the lawsuit saying it was a breach of contract.”
On March 3, 2015, Dr. Gerad was abruptly terminated from St. Rita’s Professional Services. Dr. Herb Schumm read from a letter that Dr. Gerad was being fired based on section eight of the contract. Section eight of the contract has specific reasons for immediate termination such as committing a felony, committing malpractice, being drunk, on drugs, or sexually abusing somebody.
“I asked him why I was being given immediate termination and he said, ‘let the lawyers battle it out in court.’ That’s what he told me. I don’t know why they did what they did. What upset me more was that they pulled the rug out from under my patients. I didn’t have time to break relations, to help them plan their future care, how and where they were going to do it or to say goodbye,” said Gerad.
Gerad is happy to be finished with the lawsuit and to be able to get the word out.
“I didn’t think I did anything wrong to be treated in that fashion. A lot of people don’t know what happened and we had to be discreet during the course of dispositions and discovery,” said Gerad.
Reach Merri Hanjora at 567-242-0511.
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