Trani, money from patients to skip waiting lists: a doctor and a nurse arrested

The charges are extortion, embezzlement and aggravated fraud against the State

A medical director and a nurse serving in the Radiology operational unit of the territorial assistance unit of Trani (former ‘San Nicola Pellegrino’ hospital) would have designed and implemented a parallel system with respect to the booking and waiting mechanism relating to services provided by the hospital. A consolidated method, according to the investigators, which would have allowed him to obtain illegal and huge payments from patients. They would therefore have managed the public utility service of the ASL Bat (Barletta-Andria-Trani) in a private manner, in contempt of the roles and respective figures of public officials and public service representatives.

Both were arrested and placed under house arrest in compliance with a precautionary measure requested by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and issued by the investigating judge of the Court of Trani. The investigations were carried out, also thanks to video footage, by agents of the investigative team of the Adriatic city’s police station. The charges are extortion, embezzlement and aggravated fraud against the State. The investigation relates to the period between February and March 2023, following initial investigative activity. The investigators had been reported of irregularities within the hospital structure.

The investigation was based mainly on environmental and telephone interceptions, as well as on numerous observation services and traditional investigations. In a month and a half of investigation, this allowed us to identify the people involved, to ascertain their way of acting and the context in which the story occurred. It was thus possible to outline a serious circumstantial framework against the suspects which ended up in the copious information delivered to the Trani public prosecutor’s office which coordinated the investigations and which is the basis of the request for a precautionary measure made to the investigating judge.

The modus operandi

Regarding the modus operandi of the two suspects, it emerged that they used to meet inside the medical director’s office, with some of the hospital’s patients, often suffering from serious pathologies, who required care with a certain diligence, for example tests diagnostics such as CT scans, x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging. The environmental interceptions (audio and video) would demonstrate that the two suspects, taking advantage of the state of “psychological subjection” and the state of emotional difficulty in which the patients found themselves, would have forced and induced them to hand over sums of money, which varied from 100 to 150 euros, in order to provide services, ‘skipping’ the hospital waiting list. Once the service had taken place, the two suspects pocketed the money from the patients and divided it between them.

This mechanism, as demonstrated by the consolidated relationships between the patients and the two suspects, would have become well-oiled and tested over time. At least 30 cases have been documented by the police which allowed the two (doctor and nurse) to pocket large fees.

In this way, double damage would have been caused to the public administration: the irregular and improper use of public machinery and equipment for private purposes and the lack of revenue from the sums, given that the hospital service was not followed by any payment of the ticket, thus having a negative impact. on all those people who, to benefit from a healthcare service, were forced to follow the booking lists. The latter, also due to this system, would have become much more burdensome and longer.

Privileged patients

Then there were privileged patients for whom a preferential lane was reserved. In these cases they were relatives and friends, who when in need turned directly to the doctor who immediately made himself available to provide them with medical services – CT scans, diagnostic tests, etc. – without any consideration following the service. All of this would obviously have allowed users of the services not to observe waiting lists and not pay any tickets.

Finally, it emerged that in some cases the medical director, evading the absences from the service, through the alleged accomplice, would have falsely certified the presence in the hospital, thus procuring illicit enrichment as well as causing financial damage. Subsequent investigations confirmed, through the acquisition of copious documentation in the hospital structure, the circumstantial framework obtained from the interception activities.

After the acquisition of the documentary correspondence, and after the doctor had realized that he was under the spotlight of the investigators, the man attempted to pollute the evidentiary framework, directly contacting some of the patients from whom he had unduly pocketed the money and getting rid of documentation relevant by throwing it in the garbage. An episode that was documented through an audio video interception. A vain attempt which allowed further confirmation of the investigative hypothesis. The investigators managed to recover the documentation itself. The two suspects were subjected to house arrest in their respective homes.