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How Private Equity-Owned Medical Practices Can Enable Sexual Abuse and Malpractice

July 25, 2023  ·  By HM&M

For the last decade or so, our healthcare industry has seen a notable shift in who owns medical practices—it’s no longer just physicians acting solely in the patients’ best interest, but private equity firms that focus more on profits than people. This transition can be devastating for patients who fall victim to preventable medical malpractice.

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What Private Equity Investments Mean for Healthcare Patients Today

Over the last decade or so, private equity investment in healthcare has skyrocketed. According to a report from the University of California, Berkeley a combination of increases in healthcare spending, an influx of uninvested capital dedicated to private equity funds, and the market disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated this trend.

As a result, our healthcare industry has seen a notable shift in who owns practices—it’s no longer physicians acting solely in the patients’ best interest, but private equity firms that focus more on profits than people. According to the Physicians Advocacy Institute, 70% of physicians are employed by hospital systems, private equity firms, or health insurers. What’s more, medical practice acquisition by corporate entities experienced an 86% increase from 2019 to 2021.

So what does this mean for our healthcare system? Quality of care and the long-term well-being of patients have taken a backseat to the new main priority: revenue.

Healthcare facilities need to be profitable, which make them attractive and lucrative investments for private equity firms. These investors capitalize on the opportunity to cut costs, rapidly increase profits, and subsequently resell the healthcare practices.

However, this approach has had a detrimental impact on U.S. healthcare, as private equity firms often view crucial functions, such as handling reports of misconduct, as unnecessary overhead and eliminate them. Moreover, they tend to prioritize the bottom line, potentially pressuring medical care providers to focus on more profitable procedures.

Despite presenting themselves as alleviating the business burden for doctors, these investment entities essentially transform clinics into profit-driven enterprises. Thus, “patients” have become “consumers,” and quality of care has fallen to the wayside.

Here’s the bottom line: Doctors are allowed to practice while intoxicated. They can sexually assault patients while they are at their most vulnerable. Seem too horrifying to be true? It’s exactly what happened to the victims of Dr. Vernon Cannon of the DuPage Medical Group.

Interested in learning more? Click here to receive additional resources.

Are You a Patient at a Private Equity-Owned Medical Practice?

Sexual Abuse at Private Equity-Owned Medical Practices Happens Every Day. Here’s One Example.

The sad reality is that medical malpractice happens every day. Unfortunately, even if it’s reported on, those reports may be ignored, as highlighted by several recent cases against obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Vernon Cannon and the DuPage Medical Group.

Vernon Cannon is a former DuPage Medical Group OB/GYN, now operating as Duly Health and Care, where he worked from 2007-2019. Several patient surveys from 2018 and 2019 reported that he was intoxicated and slurred his words during patient visits and, despite these reports, DuPage Medical Group allowed him to continue practicing.

His behavior allegedly escalated, leading to our first lawsuit against Cannon and DuPage Medical Group on April 30, 2021, on behalf of an adult female patient known to the court as Jane Doe. This also followed a similar Complaint at Law we filed in January 2020 against Cannon and DuPage Medical Group for sexual assault and negligence, respectively.

Since then, we’ve filed numerous additional lawsuits against Dr. Vernon Cannon and DuPage Medical Group, which involve sexual assault, intoxicated examinations, and more.

At the core of each lawsuit is DuPage Medical Group’s failure to adequately supervise Cannon despite multiple reports of intoxication and abuse. In fact, after two of the reports were filed, DuPage Medical Group placed Cannon on a 90-day improvement plan for not generating enough revenue.

As a result of investigations spurred by these lawsuits, Dr. Vernon Cannon has lost his license to practice medicine in the state of Illinois, and we’re on the path to seeking justice for his victims.

Case Study: DuPage Medical Group

What Patients Need to Know About Private Equity-Owned Medical Practices

Knowing who’s running your medical practices can help ensure you receive the utmost care and reduce your chances of becoming a victim of medical malpractice. When selecting or choosing a new medical practice, be sure to first research who owns the practice, as well as the doctors you’re interested in seeing. This can include checking Google or website reviews, as many come from the doctors’ actual patients.

Also make sure to research and understand general legal jargon as it pertains to hospital negligence and medical malpractice, no matter which hospital or doctor you choose.

Understanding Institutional Negligence and Medical Malpractice

Whether your doctor is performing a routine checkup or a scheduled surgery, it’s important to know who’s to blame in case you or a loved one falls victim to a medical mistake. Medical malpractice is a form of negligence caused by a hospital or medical personnel, while institutional negligence occurs when a medical practice fails to properly operate and maintain the facility, or fails to train and supervise its employees.

In the Dr. Vernon Cannon and DuPage Medical Group cases, for example, Cannon was accused of medical malpractice for the alleged sexual abuse of Jane Doe, while DuPage Medical Group was accused of institutional negligence for failing to supervise him despite several jarring patient reports.

This leads us to our next point: identifying and reporting sexual abuse by a medical professional.

Identifying Sexual Abuse by a Doctor

Unfortunately, many doctors abuse their positions of power to take advantage of their patients, leaving them confused, uncomfortable, or even unaware of the sexual occurrence. But no matter what, no form of sexual inappropriateness by a doctor is acceptable.
A few key indicators that your doctor may have been inappropriate can include:

  • The doctor doesn’t explain the procedure or fails to adequately answer questions about it, leaving you feeling violated.
  • The doctor examines you without gloves, or without previous discussion about what would occur.
  • The doctor asks inappropriate questions about your sexual history.
  • The doctor refuses to let anyone else in the room, such as a nurse or loved one.
  • The doctor makes unwanted physical contact or makes the patient feel uncomfortable in any way.

When you’re ready to take a step towards seeking closure and holding your doctor accountable for sexual abuse, you have several options for moving forward.

Are You a Patient at a Private Equity-Owned Medical Practice?

How to Report Your Doctor for Sexual Abuse

Beginning your journey to closure and justice can come in many forms. They include:

  • Reporting abuse to the police: You can call your local police to report sexual assault directly to law enforcement. This will likely lead to a conversation about the incident and the option to press charges against your doctor.
  • Reporting abuse to the medical center, doctor’s office, or hospital: This will likely lead to a formal investigation led by the group’s human resources or medical director.
  • Reporting abuse to your state’s medical board: Depending on your state’s medical board processes, this could lead to your doctor’s license being revoked.

Keep in mind that many of these actions can be done in tandem with each other, such as reporting the abuse to the police and your doctor’s office.

Many victims also choose to seek legal justice. Click here to receive more resources about your legal options.

How Nurses, Administrators, and Witnesses Can Take Action

For medical employees who work at a private equity-owned hospital or medical practice, it’s more important than ever to understand that both doctors and health organizations have a responsibility to ensure a patient’s safety. The goal of many private equity firms is to drive revenue growth by increasing prices and services while cutting overhead costs that they deem unimportant. This can ultimately lead to hospital negligence.

Hospital negligence can take many forms, including negligent supervision, failure to institute adequate policies and procedures, failure to provide an effective “chain of command,” and negligent credentialing. Understanding these forms of negligence can help you better identify them when they take place—and ultimately improve the level of care offered by your institution.

If you’re a nurse, administrator, or witness to medical malpractice or hospital negligence, it’s imperative that you report it. If an employee fails to report suspicions or concerns, neglects proper oversight, or ignores red flags, they may unintentionally facilitate or allow harmful actions to continue. Click here for more information on how you can report instances of medical malpractice or hospital negligence at your institution.

Reporting Malpractice at Private Equity-Owned Medical Practices

What Attorneys Need to Know About Sexual Abuse in Medical Practices

As trial attorneys, we have unique and deep experience in sexual abuse cases, especially in the niche area of private equity-owned medical practices. Our experience with the Dr. Vernon Cannon and DuPage Medical Group lawsuits have propelled us to the forefront of the battle for these institutions to be held accountable and uphold the highest level of patient care.

Our caring approach has led to dozens of victims enlisting us for help to seek justice against Dr. Vernon Cannon and DuPage Medical Group. With private equity groups in healthcare on the rise, it’s more important than ever for us to help these victims and raise awareness in a way that’s sensitive, timely, and respectful.

We have years of experience defending victims of medical malpractice and have worked with lawyers all over the country on cases involving sexual abuse, from the Boy Scouts of America victims to nursing home victims. Some of our other notable results in this realm include:

  • We earned a $16.5 million settlement from the Irish Christian Brothers for sexual abuse of students in their high schools, a portion of which will be awarded to over 30 victims we represent in the Chicago area.
  • We earned a $12 million settlement for three children neglected and sexually abused in foster care when the agency placing them in the foster home failed to monitor their care and failed to act upon various instances of suspicious behavior.
  • We earned a $3 million settlement for a 70-year-old woman sexually abused by a manager in an assisted living facility.

We’re prepared to navigate these challenging cases to seek justice for all victims involved and make a difference in our communities. Contact us here or call us at 312-553-4900 to collaborate on your clients’ needs.

Is Your Client a Victim of Medical Malpractice? Contact Hurley McKenna & Mertz

Are You a Victim of Malpractice by a Private Equity-Owned Medical Facility?

Coping as a victim of medical malpractice can be scary and challenging—and we understand that.

Determining your next steps can also be difficult. Contact us today if you’d like to learn more about your potential next steps, or fill out the form below for more helpful resources as you navigate this journey.

As experts in medical malpractice lawsuits, we’re equipped to provide you with the comfort and resources you need to make informed decisions.

July 25, 2023

How Employees Can Report Malpractice at Private Equity-Owned Medical Practices

When private investment firms purchase hospitals and physician groups, they have one goal: to make a profit. And they’re willing to make drastic changes to cut operating expenses, such as eliminating HR personnel, prioritizing moneymaking procedures, and reducing hospital staff. So what does this ultimately mean? Your chances of witnessing medical malpractice or sexual abuse... Read More

July 25, 2023

Hurley McKenna & Mertz Files 4 New, 37 Coming Misconduct Claims Against OB-GYN Vernon Cannon and DuPage Medical Group, Formerly Duly Health and Care

Update: On Aug. 31, 2023, Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C. has filed 12 additional new cases against former OB-GYN Vernon Cannon and DuPage Medical Group/Duly Health and Care. They include: Borkowski v. Cannon and DuPage Medical Group Bozich v. Cannon and DuPage Medical Group Carrion v. Cannon and DuPage Medical Group Carlson v. Cannon and... Read More

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