Moreover, the compensation agreements the hospital had with Vinas and other doctors essentially offered large incentives for more treatment, she has alleged. The Justice Department has joined her lawsuit regarding illegal compensation.
As at many hospitals, the financial benefits of operating at Halifax Health extended to at least three groups.
●Vinas and his colleagues in neurosurgery earned as much as thousands of dollars extra — above their base salaries — for each procedure after a certain threshold. The vast majority of Vinas’s earnings came from such incentive pay, according to legal filings.
●According to government estimates, each neurosurgeon at Halifax Health was generating more than $2 million a year in hospital profits. The hospital charged fusion patients an average of about $80,000, according to Florida records on Halifax Health analyzed by The Post, ranking the procedure as one of the more expensive.
●The companies that sell the hardware — screws and braces — already a multibillion-dollar business in the United States, also benefited. Those companies often have a representative positioned in the operating room, where the equipment for one fusion can typically amount to a $7,000 sale, according to the Millennium Research Group. Vinas was friendly enough with his parts salesman — who, among other things, measured the length of the necessary screws — that he traveled in Thailand with him, according to a deposition.
Baklid-Kunz detected Vinas’s rapid pace of work in an audit and asked for further review of his surgeries, documents show.
But she was discouraged from investigating further, she said.
“Hospital administrators didn’t want to touch Dr. Vinas,” she said in an interview.
Instead, they referred to Vinas and the hospital’s two other neurosurgeons as “our high rollers,” she said, and told her that rather than cracking down on their billing that “we need to make them happy.”
More than two years would pass before the hospital pursued the further review Baklid-Kunz had recommended — the AllMed report — and it was during the wait that she decided to file the lawsuit. Even after the AllMed report, she said, the hospital did little to curb Vinas’s practices.
“The hospital was caught in the act and did nothing,” said Marlan Wilbanks, Baklid-Kunz’s attorney. “They didn’t send anyone to extra training. They didn’t take any extra steps at all. They were making a lot of money.”
Hospital spokesman John Guthrie said the AllMed report was “bogus” because it was based on cases that Baklid-Kunz had selected.
“The AllMed report was based on incomplete medical records that were cherry-picked,” the hospital said in a statement. “For The Post to accept this unsupported report as fact is irresponsible and creates a grossly misleading perception.”