Most of us have loved someone who has died. What you would give for even one more day with your loved one? What would you do if someone stole those last days from you?
The Department of Justice has recently released documents alleging that 15 Novus Hospice employees and one contractor knowingly participated in a scheme to defraud the government of Fraud amounting to 60M dollars. Two nurses, thus far, have signed statements agreeing that they deliberately over medicated patients at the request of Bradley Harris, the founder of Novus Hospice in Frisco, TX. A third employee, Melanie Murphey, the director of operations also signed a document admitting that she participated in a number of fraudulent activities and knew about the expedited patient deaths.
For reference, the original documents are linked below:
The text messages that are included in the indictment and factual resumes tell this story with greater clarity than the necessary ‘legalese’. Here’s a few examples:
Brad Harris texted a nurse, Taryn Stuart to take over the care of a Continuous Care patient because the current nurses weren’t ‘doing there job’. He followed that with: I told that chick if she would just give her one mg of Ativan and turn her, she would die.
Taryn Stuart to another nurse, Jessica Love, referring to Brad Harris: Doesn’t think the Nigerian nurses are medicating properly. Wants me to go cause he knows I do it right.
Harris again: ‘(expletive) woman is still alive…..I need some boots on the ground.
After death, Taryn Stuart to Brad Harris: Just FYI, I’m going to quit being so good at cc so you won’t want to send me. LOL
Brad Harris: Haha. Nice work.
Jessica Love advised Taryn Stuart on the Jessica Continuous Care orders. It involved high doses of Ativan and Morphine. Additionally, the protocol involved removing oxygen or, if the family was present, turning it down to zero. According to Love, it worked like ‘a little charm’. Stuart agreed texting, ‘I know. That’s what I always do.’
The document does not state how the texts came to be in the possession of the investigators or how their authenticity was verified but they made their way into the two legal documents signed by nurses agreeing they were accurate.
There is more; so much more. Fraudulent orders and prescriptions for schedule II narcotics and signed certifications and Face-to Face documents that never happened are referenced. Blank DNR forms were notarized by office employees, including Amy Harris, wife of Brad Harris. Brad Harris instructed MDs on what their passwords should be for electronic signatures so he could write orders.
Jessica Love is special. By order of the state board, she should not have been employed by Novus. Her license was restricted and those restrictions included that she would not work in home health or hospice. The reason she was brought up before the board was because she signed a patient’s name to a document after the patient had died. The documents leading up to the revocation of her license are linked below.
All of this together paints a culture led by a man who had no interest in the well-being being of anyone other than himself and no respect for the regulations that shape hospice care. When a health care provider is owned by a toxic individual, the entire organization is poisoned.
If I had to guess, Brad Harris did not run a classified ad for nurses and medical directors willing to murder patients to manage length of stay numbers. He either knew or should have known about Jessica Love’s problems with the board. All of the other licensed personnel have clean and current licenses. Five of the 16 certainly knew that patients’ lives were terminated to manage the numbers; Brad Harris, his wife who worked with him, the office manager and the two nurses who signed the factual resumes. There are likely more.
What does this have to do with you? Besides Jessica Love, there are 14 other individuals who worked for Brad Harris and participated to some degree in the depraved actions that killed some patients before their disease followed the natural course. How much did the toxic environment that regarded patient lives as trivial and payment as a priority above all else contribute to the willingness of these individuals to consistently break the law including killing people?
I see people enter toxic environments with strong values and slowly those values are revised to the mean of the workplace. I assure you that I have never seen patients made to die before, but I have seen cloned notes that would not be paid upon review, missed visits, and patients who are not homebound. I have read about hospice patients with Alzheimer’s Dementia that in no way meet the criteria for hospice. This always occurs when a nurse or an agency puts profits over patients and it never turns out well.
If you stay in this business long enough as a manager, you will hire a rogue employee on occasion. If compliance starts at the top, these will be few and far between and your established employees will see the red flags long before you do and report them.
Good leaders don’t issue ultimatums such as, ‘You better have weights on your visit notes, or else you might not have a job,’ because when the choice is getting fired or documenting a fictitious weight, good nurses with a family to feed might choose the latter in a moment of weakness. When leadership builds a culture where compliance is the norm and yet allows for remediation of human error (that doesn’t involve fraud), sleep will come easily. It is expensive to commit fraud. I have never known a blatantly fraudulent provider to make money and develop a loyal staff.
I am proud to know many hospice nurses and have been overwhelmed by their caring attitude. The joy they bring patients is a gift. The hospice nurses I know go the distance for their patients and are creative and intelligent in the ways they make patients comfortable. The true hospice nurse is sacred and I am a better person for knowing them.
I don’t know where the killer nurses at Novus hospice came from but I know where they will be going. Sadly, their plea deals include only one count of Medicare fraud and the maximum sentence is only 10 years.
The first sentencing is in October. I’ll keep you posted.
Leave your comments below or email me if you have additional thoughts.