Dismissed Dr. Wellmed sues medical company for defamation


When former patients tried to track down the doctor, Welmed informed them that he had stopped practicing and began “spreading unsubstantiated rumors” about his retirement, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this month.

Medical groups allegedly told some patients that he had emigrated to Jamaica, while those who remained aware of his whereabouts were “incorrectly informed that the search operation had to be called off because he had died.” ’” the complaint adds.

Vazquez, 77 and still alive, is suing WellMed for defamation and fraudulent solicitation related to the sale of his medical practice. He is seeking over $1 million in damages.

WellMed spokesman Dan Calderon said the clinic had not commented on the lawsuit. It is our policy not to comment on pending litigation.

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Houston attorney Alfonso Kennard, who represents Vazquez, has a darker view of Wellmed.

“In my opinion, Wellmed has become something of an evil empire by freely manipulating healthcare providers, standards of care, and the ability to keep seeing the same doctors they’ve seen for decades.” ‘s name,” Kennard said.

“They went after my client, probably scooped up his formerly independent medical practice that he thought would bring efficiencies to the operation, forced him out, and ended his career prematurely. he said. “On the contrary, all they did was essentially scoop up his patient base, steal it, and force him out. You can’t do that.”

Mr. Calderon refused to comply with Mr. Kennard’s accusations.

“The trigger,” Kennard said, was when WellMed representatives told longtime Vasquez patients that they were retiring.

“Strong bond”

“It has had a significant impact on his practice[and]his ability to treat those who have been entrusted with his care over the years,” the attorney said. “He’s had relationships with underserved people in the San Anton community over the years. They trust him. They want to go to him.”

Kennard provided copies of several letters from former Vasquez patients who said they were told by a WellMed representative that the doctor had retired. No one wrote that they were told he had died.

Vasquez spent 39 years practicing medicine in Texas, according to the Texas Medical Commission website. He graduated from the Medical School of the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City in 1971.

The lawsuit alleges that he had established an “admirable reputation as a general practitioner” in San Antonio and developed “strong ties” with patients. The lawsuit added that he had won numerous awards from Wellmed.

A 2016 WellMed Facebook post shows Vasquez hosting a Thanksgiving lunch for patients. It read, “Guests enjoyed turkey, music, dancing, games, and piano playing by Dr. Vasquez himself. Versatile man!”

However, the Texas Medical Board issued a disciplinary action against him in 2018. As part of the agreed order, he was found to have “prescribed a dangerous drug or controlled substance to someone with whom he had a close personal relationship” and was fined $2,000 in administrative penalties. He also had to complete his 12 hours of continuing medical education within a year.

Although Vazquez had no previous disciplinary record, he cooperated fully with the board’s investigation and by the following year had fulfilled all demands.

treatment of the elderly

WellMed is part of WellMed Medical Management, which provides healthcare to older adults. It was founded in 1990 by gerontologist George M. Rapier III, who believed in keeping patients healthy rather than dealing with symptoms after they fell ill. Rapier remained CEO of WellMed and assumed the role of philanthropist.

Over the years, Wellmed has acquired numerous primary care practices. Today, he cares for about 2 million seniors, half of whom are Medicare patients. There are over 20,000 of her clinics in Texas and Florida.

In 2011, WellMed sold its health maintenance operations to Optum Health, part of the UnitedHealth Group, a medical services conglomerate in Minnesota.

Last year, former WellMed consultant Miguel Gutierrez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and failing to file tax returns. Prosecutors allege Gutierrez and his co-defendants diverted Rapier’s donations to two Latinx organizations for themselves.

Mr. Gutierrez said before he filed the petition, Mr. Rapier covered up his political activism, withdrew votes for conservative candidates in 2009 and 2010, and tried to sabotage the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare. accused of doing so.

As the owner of a company that relies heavily on government programs such as Medicare Advantage, Rapier was concerned about the funding cuts Obamacare might bring, Gutierrez said. He and co-defendants are expected to be sentenced in August.

In November, a San Antonio insurance broker sued WellMed Medical Management for libel and defamation. Rolando “Henry” Sanchez, who founded Caremore Clinic Solutions, which helps seniors navigate the Medicare insurance market, said two WellMed employees said, “To Sanchez and his team. We have decided to file unsubstantiated false allegations.”

Wellmed declined to comment on the lawsuit at the time of filing. The lawsuit is pending.

transaction

Vazquez said in the lawsuit that WellMed Medical Group “induced” him to sign a contract to sell the clinic in 2019, promising Vazquez an annual income of $500,000 to $600,000. He also promised training for two nurses, a personal assistant, and an electronic medical record.

WellMed never appointed him an assistant or ‘secretary’, and the best nurses were transferred to different clinics, his suit says. He also added that he never received any training on records.

Additionally, Vazquez said in his lawsuit that he was “forced to sell an investment in an imaging center that generated $120,000 in annual revenue.”

The lawsuit suggests that Vazquez, who was 74 at the time of the transaction, was subjected to age discrimination. However, he is not suing for discrimination.

Wellmed also imposed two “corrective actions” against Vazquez, the complaint says. One of which he related to filling out a patient’s medical record within his 30 days. Vazquez said he followed the corrective action instructions.

Vasquez said WellMed laid off one of its nurses when the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020. The added administrative burden and challenges posed by COVID-19 have “made it even worse” in a hostile working environment, his complaint said.

“I was escorted out”

“Finally, on October 22, 2020, Dr. Vazquez was fired, was not allowed to remove personal belongings, and was humiliated in front of employees and patients as he was removed from the premises where he practiced for over 35 years. ‘ said the complaint. Say.

Vazquez was presented with two options. Sign a non-compete agreement that “limits your ability to provide medical care in San Antonio” or two months’ salary “instead of signing a waiver agreeing not to provide medical care to Wellmed’s patients.” Do you accept it? says the lawsuit.

Attorney Kennard said Vasquez chose the second option but was forced to do so. “Vazquez was unable to practice, had no employment, no income, suffered emotional distress and low self-esteem,” the lawsuit said.

Shortly after being fired, WellMed began notifying patients that it was no longer practicing medicine, according to the lawsuit. He added that he had “spread a false story” about him.

“WellMed has deliberately maliciously and knowingly hijacked Dr. Vazquez’s decades of dedication and devotion to patients, bought out his business, and increased his dignity in the community.” and intended to damage its reputation,” the complaint alleges.

The “defamatory remarks” damaged his reputation and caused him emotional distress and loss of income, the lawsuit said.

Vazquez resumed practice but had to “rebuild his patient base from scratch,” the complaint added.

pdanner@express-news.net



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