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Stryker Accused Of Firing Makoplasty Specialist For Refusing To Cover Surgeries Solo

Posted on June 01, 2017 by Medtech[y] Staff


Background

Mako Surgical, now owned by Stryker, was recently hit with a whistleblower suit by a former Makoplasty Specialist, accusing the company of firing him because he would not perform surgical cases on his own without supervision or provide a certificate showing he could cover the cases by himself.

Joseph Matthew, the former Makoplasty Specialist, was hired in May 2015 and attended the required training sessions that would help him cover cases for Makoplasty knee replacement and hip replacement devices and surgeries. 

According to the suit, Matthew passed all of his initial training courses and began covering surgeries with a senior representative once he returned from sales training, which is a required step in receiving a certificate, allowing the specialist the cover the surgeries without supervision. 

Under orders from the Vice President of Sales, Chris Clark, Matthew refused to cover the surgeries without supervision or a certificate over his concerns regarding public health and safety as well as his concern with it being against federal regulations.

Stryker refused to provide him with a training certificate even though he had been forced to cover 8 previous cases without supervision. Instead, the company sent Matthew to what he called, remedial training, which consisted of a one-day exam, in which he scored a passing grade of 94 on the written portion of the exam. 

The practical exam was a different story.

The complaint states that Matthew's practical exam contained far more "adverse events" than a typical employee would receive in remedial training. In a similar setting, his colleagues would have received three (3) adverse events when he was presented with seven (7).

In one of the adverse events, Matthew was required to meet specific measurement parameters regarding the placement of the device as to the bone. 

The Stryker training manual states that measurements for this parameter are valid if they measure less than 1.5mm. Matthew's measurement was .7mm, well within the appropriate parameters.

However, the proctor, Martha Linehan, stated that she was not satisfied and issued Matthew an automatic failure because the parameters were not less than .5 mm.

On January 15th, 2016, Matthew was fired due to the automatic failure of his exam and remedial training. Matthew contends he was fired because he objected to illegal conduct and was retaliated against because of this.

Observations

Medical device jobs all typically start the same way: You get the job, go to training for a week or two and then get tossed into your territory to start showing your worth.

In the last 5-10 years, training certificates have become important, mostly because hospitals and vendor credentialing companies require the documents to prove sales reps are fully trained and can be an asset in a surgical procedure.

The vendor credentialing companies have turned reps without proper documentation into liability issues. If an adverse event happens in a surgical case, the hospital needs to know who was in the procedure and their reason for being in the room.

Without knowing all of the details, Stryker has to understand that sales reps cannot just walk into an operating room these days without proper documentation. 

If a hospital requires a training certificate and the sales rep does not have one, the hospital employee (usually in materials management) will deny the sales rep entry into the hospital. Similar to an agent at the airport, the materials manager looks at a screen and if all the boxes aren't green, you will not get into the hospital. It's pretty simple these days.

For the company to ask him to cover cases unsupervised without a training certificate shows how out of touch some of the executives are at certain medical device companies. The VP may not even know that reps can't get into a hospital without showing the hospital they are certified to educate a physician on their product.

More details will undoubtedly come out at the trial, but on first glance, it seems Stryker want to get rid of a rep because they ended up not being a good fit. 

We will update this story as more information becomes available. In the meantime, you can read the original complaint below.

Complaint