A heartless hospice chain prodded its sales reps to sneak into hospitals and nursing homes in search of terminally ill patients at the height of the coronavirus pandemic — even if it meant falsely posing as staff, a new lawsuit claims.
Vitas Healthcare of Miami improperly declared its sales staffers “essential” to get around government-ordered lockdowns — and then sent them to scour for new business in ways that endangered the health of both staffers and patients, according to a class-action complaint filed in California state court by a Bay Area sales rep.
Vitas, nation’s biggest for-profit hospice chain, knew that its sales reps could be turned away, so it “openly encouraged sales representatives to skirt entry checkpoints at hospitals by posing as hospital employees,” the lawsuit claims.
Eisenacher refused to make such in-person visits in part because her history of respiratory illness makes COVID-19 especially risky for her, the complaint says.
Her doctor directed her to work from home — but her supervisor told her to convince the doctor otherwise after Vitas put her on unpaid medical leave, court papers say.
After the doctor refused, the supervisor withheld sales leads crucial to Eisenacher’s job before she ultimately went on paid medical leave in late May, according to the suit.
Vitas did not address Eisenacher’s specific situation. But the company said its representatives are essential because they ensure health care providers and their patients can access hospice care.
“In times like this, when the healthcare system has been significantly disrupted, it is essential that the entire healthcare continuum, which includes hospice care, is supported and remains viable for the benefit of people in need,” Vitas said in a statement. “Our policies follow guidance provided by federal, CDC, state and local authorities with regard to the wellbeing of our staff.”