The FBI is investigating the chilling reports of a money-hungry hospice owner from the Dallas, Texas, area who stands accused of ordering nurses to increase the drug dosages of patients in order to speed their deaths.
The founder of the hospice, Novus Health Services, which is located in Frisco, Texas, is Brad Harris. And as Fox News reports, the FBI affidavit states that higher dosages of medicine were, in fact, given to at least four hospice patients at Novus.
Adding to the horror of the accusation is the way Brad Harris allegedly delivered the orders to his nurses. It is claimed that Harris would send his nurses blunt, chilling text messages that contained no hint of remorse but were, instead, simple, blood-curdling directives to cut short the lives of patients entrusted into their care.
“You need to make this patient go bye-bye.”
The Dallas Morning News reports that Harris made other disturbing comments, such as “if this f*** would just die.” Harris also allegedly said, in a lunch meeting with the hospice’s administration, that he wanted to “find patients who would die within 24 hours.”
The motive behind Harris’ desire to find patients who would die quickly, and, in lieu of that, to issue orders to his nurses to overdose other patients, is obvious to many, and it highlights what could be a dangerous practice in healthcare.
Harris stood to make greater financial gains if his hospice patients had a shorter stay.
This is because hospices are subject to what is called an “aggregator cap,” which limits both Medicare and Medicaid payments based on the yearly average for a hospice stay. If patients in hospice live longer than the average yearly stay, the hospice provider can be forced to pay back part of their payments to the government.
“Hence, hospice providers have an incentive to enroll patients whose hospice stays will be short relative to the cap,” an agent wrote in the affidavit.
Furthermore, according to one employee, it was Harris himself who decided which home health care patients would be moved to hospice. And he did so fraudulently.
“He did this by having employees who were not doctors sign the certifications with the names of doctors also employed by Novus,” an FBI agent said.”If a patient was on hospice care for too long, Harris would direct the patient be moved back to home health, irrespective of whether the patient needed continued hospice care.”
The FBI states that their investigation into Novus began in October of 2014, under suspicion that Novus had, for the previous two years, actively recruited patients who did not qualify for services and charged the government for services to patients that were not medically necessary.
But as the FBI dug further into the practices at Novus, they discovered that Harris, who has no medical training or licenses, would direct his employed nurses to overdose hospice patients with palliative medications, such as morphine, in order to hasten their deaths — thereby minimizing the paybacks to the government that Novus would be subject to under the aggregator cap.
Investigators have yet to indicate whether any deaths occurred from the purposeful overdoses. The FBI states further that at least one nurse did refuse to administer a dangerously high dosage of medication to a patient.
An employee told agents that in 2013, Harris asked a worker to “administer an overdose of medication to a hospice patient…by increasing the patient’s medication dosage to approximately four times the maximum allowed.”
No charges have been filed against either Harris or his company, Novus. But in light of current allegations, the company’s website takes on an ominous tone. Explaining that Novus offers hospice and home health are services, it states that the people at Novus have a saying.
“[…]Be fast and treat people the way we would want to be treated. This encourages us to go the extra mile to make patients feel comfortable and secure about their special needs and requests.”
Brad Harris, the founder of Novus, obviously took the first part of his company’s saying to heart and completely disregarded the rest.