The biggest threat to Tenet ( THC) could be festering inside its own walls. Already ambushed by numerous external probes, the giant hospital operator now must deal with mounting attacks from within its own ranks. During the past week, at least one physician and thousands of registered nurses have taken fresh swings at the ailing hospital chain. Both parties essentially accuse Tenet of violating federal laws. For Tenet, the doctor's testimony could prove especially troubling. By now, the hospital chain is accustomed to serious allegations from nurses seeking workplace improvements. But the doctor's attack -- which already has triggered one indictment -- appears to be a first. "Never before has the government been able to get between Tenet and its doctors," said Jim Moriarty, a Houston attorney who scored a huge settlement against Tenet nearly a decade ago. "This could be the linchpin that brings the whole company down." Tenet has downplayed the indictment as the "unfortunate" result of one doctor's desperate attempts to avoid jail time for his own misconduct. Investors continued to watch warily, sending the stock -- which has lost 69% of its value over the last year -- up a nickel Tuesday to $16.05.
Based largely on the testimony of former internist Paul Ver Hoeve -- described by Tenet as a "disgraced physician" guilty of 64 counts of felony Medicare fraud -- federal authorities last week indicted Alvarado Hospital CEO Barry Weinbaum on charges he broke Medicare laws himself. Specifically, the feds have accused Weinbaum of paying various physicians more than $10 million in the aggregate to relocate to San Diego and refer Medicare patients to the Tenet-owned hospital Weinbaum has led there for more than a decade. The indictment also alleges that Weinbaum knew he was breaking rules and attempted to cover his tracks. The government cites testimony from Ver Hoeve -- who confessed to participating in the alleged scam -- as evidence for its case.