A heart specialist accused of performing medically unnecessary and costly cardiac procedures on thousands of patients at South Miami Hospital is negotiating a settlement in a whistleblower lawsuit alleging years of healthcare fraud.
In a court order filed last week, U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro instructed one of the whistleblowers in the case, James A. Burks, to file a status report by Dec. 16 or risk dismissal of the case.
An attorney representing Burks in the lawsuit, declined to comment on his client’s settlement negotiations with John R. Dylewski, the heart specialist accused of performing medically unnecessary cardiac procedures at South Miami Hospital dating back to 2007.
However, an attorney representing Dylewski issued a statement emphatically denying that her client had committed healthcare fraud.
“Dr. Dylewski categorically denies all allegations made in the lawsuit and there has been no admission or determination of liability or impropriety as to any party,” Amber Donner, an attorney representing Dylewski, said in a written statement on Monday. “Dr. Dylewski has dedicated his life to providing the highest quality care and treatment to his patients and he continues to do so.”
South Miami Hospital, part of the nonprofit Baptist Health South Florida system, agreed to pay about $12 million last week to settle the lawsuit’s charges that its executives knew about and rewarded healthcare fraud. In agreeing to the settlement, which was joined by the Justice Department, Baptist Health and South Miami Hospital admitted no wrongdoing or liability. Dylewski was not a party to the settlement.
A written statement issued last week by the hospital’s chief medical officer, Yvonne Johnson, also noted that Dylewski “is not practicing” at South Miami Hospital — a statement that a second attorney representing Dylewski called a mischaracterization of the facts.
“The written statements made by Dr. Johnson, and the insinuation Dr. Johnson intended to impart, was that South Miami Hospital had terminated Dr. Dylewski as part of a commitment to providing the highest quality of care,” Cynthia Hibnick, an attorney representing Dylewski, said in a written statement. “In point of fact, Dr. Dylewski has not been terminated. Rather, Dr. Dylewski is on a voluntary leave of absence while he concentrates on his defense of the allegations made against him.”
Dori Alvarez, a spokeswoman for Baptist Health, confirmed that Dylewski has been on a leave of absence but declined to elaborate on the reason.
“We are unable to comment on the circumstances or conditions of the leave,” she said in a written statement.
The lawsuit, which was initiated by Burks and a second physician, James D. Davenport, claims that thousands of patients, many of them elderly, were subjected to medically unnecessary and costly procedures by Dylewski to treat irregular heartbeats at South Miami Hospital, with the knowledge of top Baptist Health executives.
Burks is a vascular surgeon who began his practice at South Miami Hospital in 2003. Davenport is a cardiologist who served on various peer review committees at South Miami Hospital between 2010 and 2014. They will receive about $2.7 million from the Baptist Health settlement.