DOJ files complaint in Waycross, Georgia endovascular whistleblower suit

by Ben Vernia | July 28th, 2010

On April 5, the Department of Justice announced that it was intervening in a qui tam suit brought by a nurse against a hospital and surgeon alleging that he was not trained or competent to perform endovascular procedures for which the hospital submitted federal claims. On July 27, DOJ announced that it had filed it complaint in intervention in the case. According to the Department’s press release:

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, alleges that the defendants submitted false or fraudulent claims to federal health care programs, such as Medicare. Specifically, the United States contends that certain operative procedures performed by Dr. Azmat at Satilla, and hospital services provided by Satilla in connection with those procedures, were not reasonable and necessary, were incompatible with standards of acceptable medical practice, and were of no medical value. The United States further alleges that the defendants’ misconduct endangered the lives of federal health care program beneficiaries.

The government’s complaint alleges that in the Spring of 2005, Satilla recruited Dr. Azmat, a general surgeon by training, to relocate to Waycross and join the hospital’s medical staff. Shortly after Dr. Azmat came aboard, Satilla allowed him to begin performing endovascular procedures – highly specialized operative procedures that require formal training – in Satilla’s Heart Center cath lab. Satilla did so despite the fact that Dr. Azmat lacked training to perform such procedures, was not qualified or competent to perform such procedures, had never performed such procedures before at any of the hospitals where he had been on staff, and did not even have privileges at Satilla to perform such procedures.

The complaint further alleges that it was obvious to the cath lab nursing staff that Dr. Azmat was not qualified or competent to perform endovascular procedures. The nurses repeatedly voiced their concerns to Satilla’s management, but the hospital took no formal action for at least five months, during which patients were seriously injured and one patient died from hemorrhagic shock following an endovascular procedure during which Dr. Azmat perforated her renal artery. The complaint also states that not only did Satilla’s management ignore its nurses’ concerns for several months, but it also performed no formal oversight of Dr. Azmat, categorically excluding all of his endovascular procedures from Satilla’s peer review process.

A copy of the Department’s complaint in intervention can be found here.

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