Tenet Denied Hearing in Physician-Relocation Agreements Trial
U.S. District Judge M. James Lorenz on Friday denied a motion filed by Tenet Healthcare that sought a perjury hearing over alleged lies in testimony from prosecution witnesses in a trial related to physician-relocation agreements used by Alvarado Hospital Medical Center, the Los Angeles Times reports (Girion, Los Angeles Times, 10/16). In the case, federal prosecutors allege that Alvarado and other Tenet hospitals have offered physician-relocation agreements in exchange for patient referrals. Under anti-kickback laws for federal health care programs, hospitals cannot directly pay physicians for such referrals. In July 2003, a federal grand jury issued a 17-count criminal indictment of Alvarado; CEO Barry Weinbaum; and owner Tenet HealthSystem Hospitals, a Tenet subsidiary, over allegations that the hospital paid more than $10 million for more than 100 physician-relocation agreements between 1992 and 2000. Federal prosecutors also have charged former Alvarado administrator Mina Nazaryan in the case (California Healthline, 10/12).
Tenet attorneys filed the motion for the perjury hearing after the U.S. attorney's office informed them that several prosecution witnesses might have lied in their grand jury testimony. However, Lorenz denied the motion and ruled that Tenet attorneys could attempt to discredit those witnesses during cross-examination with questions about evidence of lies in their grand jury testimony. Federal prosecutors might call more than 100 witnesses in the case. Lorenz also said that he will set a hearing requested by federal prosecutors to place sanctions on Tenet attorneys for the alleged improper release of grand jury testimony, which they included in the perjury hearing motion. Jury selection in the trial will begin on Tuesday (Los Angeles Times, 10/16).