Fort Worth

Fort Worth mayor calls for audit of workers’ comp company

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, shown here during a city council meeting in February, says the new Justice Department initiative aimed at building trust in the community, is not a federalization of the police department.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, shown here during a city council meeting in February, says the new Justice Department initiative aimed at building trust in the community, is not a federalization of the police department. Star-Telegram archives

Mayor Betsy Price is calling for an audit into workers’ compensation cases handled by the company she criticized last week for directing “inflammatory questions” to the family of a shot police officer.

In a statement issued Thursday, the company, CorVel Enterprise Comp, denies wrongdoing and said it was acting at the request of city officials.

Price, however, maintained after a Thursday afternoon meeting with top CorVel representatives that the workers’ compensation nurse who visited the injured officer at a hospital acted inappropriately.

The audit, to be handled by the city’s Human Resources Director Brian Dickerson and Assistant City Manager Susan Alanis, should take about a month to complete, and will focus on how the cases over the past two years were handled and whether there were complaints from city employees, Price said. It will not look at settlement payouts.

City Manager David Cooke has also been directed to review the contract with CorVel, which expires in December, and consider options for rebidding the contract.

“I was very frustrated,” Price said of the statement released by CorVel on Thursday. “I think they are trying to frame it on us for having the case worker called in, and that was not the [issue] at all. It was the ineptitude of the caseworker and the way they handled it that frustrated everybody.”

Rick Van Houten, president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, said, “Every officer that is injured complains about this company.”

“I think that CorVel sells the nurse case managers under the premise of facilitating better care, when in our experience, the reality is it is an attempt to get their nose under the fence and act as an early warning system,” Van Houten said.

Tony Knight, a CorVel spokesperson, said the company “looks forward to working with the city and the audit process” and that CorVel is not an insurance company, and doesn’t benefit financially whether the city pays the claims or not.”

‘Inflammatory questions’

Sgt. S. Drake, a 19-year veteran of the Fort Worth Police Department, was shot in the abdomen in the line of duty on Jan. 29 and was taken to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth.

Drake has a “very long road to recovery ahead,” Van Houten said.

Price said last week that a workers’ compensation representative showed up at the hospital on the morning after the shooting and directed “inflammatory questions” to the family, officers and hospital staff.

Price still declines to elaborate on the questions. Van Houten also would not say what the questions were, but agreed they were inappropriate.

“The questions that were being asked had no relevancy to the care or the treatment of the injuries,” Van Houten said. “Furthermore, if the nurse case manager is truly there to help facilitate the treatment process, it would make sense that the only people that they should be contacting are the professionals giving that care.”

Price sent a letter to the company on Jan. 30 asking for a meeting “in order to determine the facts and get to the bottom of this matter.”

Nurse ‘acted professionally’

In a statement issued Thursday by CorVel, the company says it assigned a registered nurse to go to the hospital at the request of a Fort Worth Police Department coordinator.

The nurse, who has 25 years of experience in the field with a master’s degree in public health, was met at the hospital by a police liaison officer “who was not the usual officer that handles these duties, and there was apparently a misunderstanding as to who she was and her purpose for being there,” CorVel said.

“Her presence was not well received and after a brief interaction the nurse left the hospital,” the statement said.

It also said CorVel has investigated and “we are confident that the nurse acted professionally and responsibly throughout the interaction.”

The statement goes on to say that the company apologized to Drake and his family for the misunderstanding, but that sending a nurse “as a case coordinator early in the recovery process is an industry standard.”

More than that, it said the city requires that CorVel, in the event of a catastrophic or severe on-the-job injury, immediately assign a nurse case manager. The purpose of sending the nurse, according to the statement, was to offer assistance to Drake and his family and to evaluate their immediate needs for medical services.

Price said the representatives in Thursday’s meeting were “apologetic and understand the severity. And we left it with the fact that we expect a full, written apology to the family and the police department for their case worker’s behavior and insensitivity.”

Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984

Twitter: @catyhirst

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram