Halifax to spend millions more to fight second phase of lawsuit

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VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - 9 Investigates how taxpayer money is being spent on a massive lawsuit against Volusia County's public hospital: Halifax Health.

Earlier this year, Halifax settled the first part of the lawsuit for $85 million. The second part is expected to go to court next week, which means more taxpayer being spent to defend the hospital.

Halifax officials still aren't providing billing statements, but Channel 9's Lori Brown found they have been spending hundreds of thousands on perks for executives.

Hospital board members are meeting behind closed doors Monday night to figure out how to proceed with the lawsuit.

In the meantime, Brown found out the executives in charge when the alleged fraud happened appear to be getting promoted.

Halifax Hospital is funded in part through property taxes and stands to lose $200 million when it heads to trial next week.

The hospital said it has spent $24.3 million so far fighting the case, but that figure does not include the amount the hospital still owes. 

"If this was a private company, how would the CEO react? He'd fire people," said Ed Connor, the vice president of Volusia Tax Reform. "He'd demote people, transport people."

But that has not happened at Halifax Hospital.

Arvin Lewis and George Rousis were both in charge during the years the hospital is accused of serious violations, which include hospitalizing patients who did not need to be in the hospital in order to get Medicare reimbursements and illegally paying doctors based on referrals and volume.

That practice is illegal because it leads to unnecessary procedures, Brown said.

Patient Eunice Murphy believes she's the victim of an unnecessary spinal fusion.

"I think it is the cruelest thing one human being can do to another," she said.

Lewis became chief revenue officer and Rousis was promoted to vice president chief compliance and audit officer.

The hospital said they are title changes with no raises until next year, which is when all executives will receive raises.

"We've always known the weakness of the system is as long as you're dealing with other people's money, it's very easy to spend it," said Connor.

The hospital also recently opened up new executive suites. After learning those suites cost $500,000 in public money, Channel 9 asked to take a look. The hospital said the suites reduce off-site rental space.