VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - A taxpayer-funded hospital could be in hot water for destroying thousands of patient records.
Halifax Health, Volusia County's largest hospital, is facing a whistleblower case that claims the hospital may have put patients' health at risk.
The team responsible for defending Halifax Health against accusations that they purposely destroyed critical evidence in a whistleblower case wanted to keep reporters out of the courtroom.
A judge denied that request.
The case seeks $1 billion in damages for taxpayers.
An attorney for the U.S. Justice Department said Halifax employees shredded the records of 6,000 patients, turning key evidence in the case into thousands of little pieces.
Halifax says it was all an accident.
"How do you mistakenly destroy not one file, not 10, not 50, but thousands of files? How do you mistakenly do that?" Whistleblower attorney Marlan Wilbanks
Wilbanks argues that Halifax destroyed the records on purpose to get rid of the evidence that they were ripping off taxpayers.
He cites a memo where Halifax's own compliance officer, Elin Kunz,
warned, "I am increasingly concerned about the financial exposure to Halifax, arising from the medically unnecessary admission of Medicare as inpatients ... I believe the financial impact could be in the millions of dollars."
Halifax argued that they destroyed the records to clean up their
warehouse because of a Florida law that allows destruction after seven years.
"The law change they're talking about was in
1997. Why did they wait 14 years?" Wilbanks asked.
Whether the destruction was intentional or accidental, it may never be known what the records would have shown.