This story was updated at 9:11 a.m. Wednesday to add the comments of a spokeswoman for Overland Park Regional Medical Center.
A Jackson County jury has awarded nearly $29 million to a physician who claimed he was wrongfully terminated by the emergency room staffing companies that employed him.
Raymond Brovont argued that he'd been fired after he raised concerns that a single physician was used at night to cover both the regular and pediatric ERs of Overland Park Regional Medical Center. The staffing decision was made by his employers, subsidiaries of the ER staffing company EmCare. Brovont alleged the policy left the ERs dangerously understaffed.
Brovont worked at Overland Park Regional and Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence before he was terminated by EmCare. Both hospitals are owned by HCA Midwest Health, which uses EmCare to staff its ERs.
Overland Park Regional opened its pediatric emergency room in 2016 and touted it as being a “24 hour” dedicated pediatric ER.
Brovont said that was misleading because, from 11 p.m. to 11 a.m., a single physician assigned to the hospital ER was also responsible for covering the pediatric ER.
According to his lawsuit: “As the number of dangerous and life-threatening situations at Overland Park Regional continued to mount, and as defendants’ understaffing became even more acute with the opening of the Pediatric ER, plaintiff wrote a formal complaint to his superiors on September 30, 2016. Unfortunately, no changes were made.”
Brovont said his superiors were “furious at him” for complaining and told him they would terminate his employment unless he resigned. He refused, and in January 2017 he was fired.
The jury award in his favor included $20 million in punitive damages.
Kim Warth, a spokeswoman for EmCare, said the company plans to appeal the verdict. She said it had no comment otherwise.
Christine Hamele, a spokeswoman for Overland Park Regional, said it was important to note that the hospital was not a party to the litigation.
"Our programs meet the stringent quality and safety standards of both The Joint Commission and American College of Surgeons, and we are proud of the dedication of our physicians, nurses and support staff to provide high quality, safe and compassionate care," Hamele said.
Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies