Health Care

$29M verdict for doctor who was fired after reporting understaffing in JoCo hospital

Emergency room physician Raymond Brovont says he was fired for reporting understaffing at Overland Park Regional Medical Center.

A Jackson County jury agreed and this week awarded Brovont $29 million in his wrongful termination lawsuit.

“We proved at trial he was fired for raising his voice,” said Brovont’s attorney, Michael Ketchmark. “The jury, I think, sent a pretty loud message that when you have these corporations come in and provide managed care they’re required to listen to the doctors’ complaints about patient safety.”

Brovont sued subsidiaries of EmCare, a physician outsourcing company he worked for. The HCA Midwest hospital chain had a contract with EmCare, and the company sent him to work at Overland Park Regional and Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence.

Ketchmark said the verdict included $9 million in actual damages and $20 million in punitive damages.

“We appreciate the judge and jury’s work on the case, however we do plan to file an appeal,” EmCare spokeswoman Kim Warth said via email.

Brovont was medical director of the emergency department at Overland Park Regional. His lawsuit said that after the hospital opened a pediatric emergency room in 2016, he became concerned that EmCare was staffing both the adult and pediatric ERs with just one physician overnight.

That made HCA Midwest’s marketing of a “24-hour dedicated pediatric emergency room” misleading, Brovont said. But the more serious problem, he said, was a “severe and dangerous understaffing of these facilities.”

“Given the dangerous level of understaffing in Overland Park Regional’s emergency departments, plaintiff was gravely concerned for the safety of the the hospital’s patients,” Brovont’s lawsuit said.

But when Brovont complained to his superiors at EmCare on Sept. 30, 2016, “no changes were made,” according to the suit.

Instead, the lawsuit said Brovont’s bosses “were furious at him for making his complaint.” The suit alleged that four months later they told him to resign or be fired, and when he refused to resign the company terminated him without cause.

Christine Hamele, a spokeswoman for HCA Midwest, emphasized that Overland Park Regional was not a party to Brovont’s suit.

Hamele said the hospital meets safety standards set forth by the Joint Commission, an accrediting agency, and the American College of Surgeons.

“At Overland Park Regional Medical Center we are very proud to offer four emergency departments, as well as Johnson County’s only Trauma Center, treating more than 50,000 patients annually, as well as a much-needed community based pediatric program,” Hamele said in an emailed statement.

“Our committed, collaborative and passionate care team has treated thousands of patients through Overland Park Regional’s trauma department and emergency rooms — patients and families who have trusted us during the most vulnerable time in their life.”