Former Pauls Valley Hospital Employees Planning Lawsuit Against City
PAULS VALLEY, Oklahoma - Former employees of the recently closed Pauls Valley Hospital are considering a class action lawsuit against the city, even as the city considers selling the hospital to a Miami based company with a history of questionable billing practices.
Former employees at Pauls Valley hospital say this is about more than just the money that they weren’t paid. They say this is also about the benefits that of been withheld.
Former Paul’s Valley hospital lab tech Tammy Sandifer is a fight for her life; and it’s a fight she could lose because of her former employer.
“I got the news Wednesday morning that it was pancreatic cancer. No insurance. Cancer policy hasn’t been paid since May,” said Sandifer.
For years, Sandifer has been paying for medical insurance through the hospital. But for months, the hospital has been taking payments out of her check and not applying them to her insurance. Without insurance the cancer is killing her.
“For months. And we had no idea. I had no idea that we had no benefits at all,” said Sandifer. “It is aggressive. And so, the longer I have to wait the worse it could be because right now they say it can be curable but a couple weeks it might not be.”
Sandifer isn’t alone. Former employees left jobless when the hospital closed last week, met with Tulsa Attorney Mark Edwards Friday to consider a class action lawsuit.
“You have a valid claim,” Edwards told the crowd. “You have a claim for wages. You have a claim for benefits. There may be a couple of other claims that we can talk about.”
Edwards plans to look into whether the city had insurance to cover what he calls, “Errors and omissions” in its ownership of the hospital.
Meanwhile, sources in city government confirmed the city is trying to sell the hospital to Jorge Perez, owner of Empower HMS; a Miami based healthcare group. A CBS News investigation in March showed Perez and his company have been sued several times, once alleging illegal activity, for funneling lab tests from all over the country through smaller rural hospitals that insurance companies reimburse at dramatically higher rates. The scheme has earned Perez millions.
Blue Cross Blue Shield in Oklahoma will no longer reimburse four hospitals Perez owns because of his questionable billing practices.
Former employees wonder if the city can repair the damage the hospital caused.
“I don’t want to die. I’ve got kids. I mean no I don’t wanna [sic] die,” said Sandifer.