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St. Joseph Medical Center lays off 17

Seventeen people have been laid off at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson as a result of a “performance improvement initiative,” according to the company.

Employees were notified last week, and the layoffs will go into effect over the next several weeks. The positions cut include both clinical and non-clinical staff. The company will give priority to these individuals for open internal positions and said it is likely that many will be placed in other roles. Those laid off will receive severance packages and human resources assistance, the company said.

St. Joseph has been at the center of controversy over the medically unnecessary use of heart stents. The hospital agreed in November 2010 to pay $22 million to settle allegations that it paid illegal kickbacks to MidAtlantic Cardiovascular Associates over a 10-year period and, separately, billed federal benefit programs for medically unnecessary stents. Hundreds of patients are suing St. Joseph and a former employee, the physician at the center of the controversy, Dr. Mark G. Midei, for allegedly implanting unnecessary heart stents.

Midei, through the Pikesville law firm of Snyder & Snyder, has filed a $60 million lawsuit against the hospital for allegedly making him the “fall guy” to deflect attention from an ongoing Medicare fraud investigation.

The company’s former CEO, Jeffrey K. Norman, resigned without explanation in August. His successor, Charles W. Neumann, took over on Aug. 23. Amid declining revenue since 2009, St. Joseph announced in October that the company is looking to secure a strategic partnership with a Maryland health care system.