Two cardiologists, Dr. Ehab Morcos and Dr. George Bousamra resigned their privileges at Westmoreland Hospital in mid-January after an initial review showed that they performed more than 750 stent procedures in one year. Further review by two teams that included nationally recognized interventional cardiologists determined that 141 patients who underwent the stent procedure in 2010 did not need the stents.
Stents are normally placed to prop open clogged arteries in the heart when there is a blockage of 70 percent or greater. In some cases, doctors will place stents for narrowing of 60 percent. According to Jerome Granato, Excela's chief medical officer, the 141 patients reported had "angiographically insignificant narrowing of 50 percent or less."
CEO of Excela Health, the Greensburg based parent hospital, Robert Rogalski stated that Westmoreland Hospital would return the money paid for the procedures. The patients were insured by both the government and private insurance companies. The doctors' names will be turned over to the Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Health and Human Services, which investigates Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
A letter was sent to the 141 patients encouraging them to make an appointment with one of the hospital's other cardiologists. A medically unnecessary stent can pose many risks to patients including a one percent chance that a blood clot could form causing a heart attack. While one percent may seem low, in this scenario, at least one person will suffer from a heart attack caused by this unnecessary procedure. Many patients are forced to take blood thinning drugs for the rest of their lives because of these stents.
The above mentioned physicians joined the medical staff at Westmoreland Hospital about five years ago but were not employees of the facility. According to a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, both physicians renewed their medical licenses in December and have no disciplinary actions on file.
There has been intense federal scrutiny on the impact of unnecessary stent procedures on patients and government reimbursements. The Senate Finance Committee issued a report last December about an investigation of a Maryland hospital where they said a cardiologist implanted 585 unnecessary stents. The committee referred to that example as a "clear example of potential fraud, waste and abuse." According to the Baltimore Sun, more than 100 of those patients have filed medical malpractices claims. Many more claims are expected to be filed in the coming months.
If you or a loved one received a letter for a stent you received in 2010, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney immediately. Patients may be entitled to compensation for damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, future medical expenses, future risk of harm and fear of future harm. Contact our experienced attorneys today for a free case evaluation.
To read the complete Pittsburgh Tribune Review article Review: 141 patients got unnecessary heart stents click here.