Cardiologist files suit alleging wrongful termination at BayCare

Attorneys representing BayCare said that Dr. Gary Idelchik talked about using guns in the workplace.
The entrance to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, facing Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The entrance to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, facing Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. [ Google Maps ]
Published Sept. 24, 2020

Dr. Gary Idelchik’s tenure as a cardiologist at St. Joseph’s Hospital was short.

He was recruited from Saratoga Hospital in New York in November 2018 to become the medical director of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at the Tampa hospital. But he was fired a year and a half later.

Idelchik claims in a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County Circuit Court in July that he was terminated by BayCare Health System in retaliation for speaking out about the poor quality of care at the Tampa hospital.

But BayCare, which employs thousands of health care workers in the Tampa Bay area at the 15 hospitals, doctors offices and clinics it operates, said in the suit that Idelchik was fired after he made comments in the workplace about using guns to shoot people.

Idelchik is suing BayCare Health System for wrongful termination and violation of the retaliatory discharge statute, the private-sector whistleblower’s act. He was fired in July.

A spokeswoman for BayCare Health System declined to comment on the case, citing ongoing litigation. The attorneys representing Idelchik also declined to comment when reached by a reporter from the Tampa Bay Times. Idelchik did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Before his termination, the lawsuit maintains that Idelchik was placed on administrative leave by the BayCare President and CEO, Tommy Inzina, and St. Joseph’s Hospital President, Kimberly Guy, for making comments about guns in the workplace . Idelchik said despite asking for more information about these claims, BayCare management never interviewed him nor investigated further.

As part of his suspension, Idelchik was asked to complete a fitness for duty evaluation, but refused on June 5. That same day, a Tampa police officer went to his house to follow up on a complaint made by security officials from BayCare, but a case was never opened.

About a month after he refused the evaluation, Idelchik was formally terminated.

In the suit, Idelchik said he felt he was fired in retaliation for criticizing the cardiac catheterization lab where he worked. Idelchik said he was hired to oversee the lab and improve it. But when he started the job in Tampa, he found that “among the practicing cardiologists, procedural expertise was low and complications were high and undocumented,” according to the complaint.

In a meeting on Dec. 6 with the hospital Chief Medical Officer, Peter Charvat, Idelchik pointed out deficiencies in the cardiac catheterization program. He also said he felt he was being retaliated against by a superior in his department. The next month, he was told his position was being dissolved.

In March, Idelchik reported a surgery performed by his superior to leadership at BayCare. He said the surgeon didn’t document a serious medical issue to skirt around the procedures that he would have to follow, according to court documents. The patient was discharged, despite Idelchik’s recommendation. The next day, the patient had a heart attack, Idelchik said in the court filings.

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Idelchik said he filed a complaint against the hospital with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration because he was concerned with the amount of complications and lack of proper documentation in the cardiac lab. BayCare was aware that he filed the complaint, the lawsuit said.

But Baycare denies much of Idelchik’s claims and moved to dismiss the case, according to their latest filing. The health system denies that Idelchik’s job responsibilities were to review surgeries and procedural practice for the cardiac catheterization lab. They also denied his claim that he was hired to improve the level of patient care.

In a press release published shortly after he joined the company, BayCare identifies Idelchik as a cardiologist and that he was treating adult patients at a medical office in Tampa. It does not specify his duties in the hospital lab.

But in the complaint, Idelchik alleges that the quality of care, and his inability to give proper oversight, ultimately caused harm to BayCare patients.