By now, many people are familiar with the news that a cardiologist at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Towson, Maryland has been accused of inserting coronary artery stents that were not medically necessary, exposing hundreds of his patients to harm from long-term use of blood thinners and the risk of the possibility of heart attack or stroke. St. Joseph’s recently sent letters to Dr. Mark Midei’s patients, alerting them to the possbility that the stents placed in their hearts were unnecessary.
It appears that the situation at St. Joseph’s may not be an isolated event. Dr.Christopher Mallavarapu, a cardiologist in Louisiana, discovered that his partner, Dr. Mehmood Patel, was also placing stents in his patient’s coronary arteries that had no blockage in them. After reviewing Dr.Patel’s files, and discovering that the unnecessary stents were fraudulently billed to Medicare, Dr. Mallavarapu contacted the federal government which ultimately convicted Dr.Patel of health care fraud and sentencedhim to10 years in prison.
The stents are placed without any oversight by another physician or a radiologist to confirm that the stent was actually needed. Further, even though the nurses who assist the cardiologist may know that the physician is committing fraud, they are reluctant to speak up, fearing for their jobs given the amount of money a cardiologist brings to his hospital for inserting the stents. Until there is a better system ofoversight and review of the procedures physicians perform, patients will continue to be at risk of harm by these greedy docs.