Lawsuit alleges hospital performed unnecessary heart surgeries


by Adam Walser

Posted on September 29, 2011 at 11:41 AM

Updated Thursday, Sep 29 at 12:28 PM

(WHAS11) -- A Kentucky hospital owned by Catholic Health Initiatives is facing a lawsuit, alleging doctors there performed unnecessary heart surgeries.

It's not the first time Catholic Health Initiatives has faced allegations like this.

The allegations are that surgeries were performed on a patient who did not fall within the guidelines to make them medically necessary at St. Joseph’s Hospital in London, Ky.

“This was for the doctor. He charged $19,571,” Edward Marshall said, reading one of the reams of medical bills he’s accumulated in recent years.

Marshall has undergone 19 heart catheterizations and a pacemaker operation at St. Joseph’s Hospital in rural London, Ky.

The $152 million new hospital is the tallest and one of the busiest buildings in that town.

Marshall tells us while he was in the waiting room of clinics operated by the hospital, he saw many patients who were told they needed some type of heart surgery.

“It's almost like you could play a record,” Marshall said.

Edwards is suing St. Joseph and its parent company Catholic Health Initiatives after two other cardiologists told him his latest heart procedures, including his pacemaker and a stent operation, weren't necessary.

Medical guidelines call for at least a 70 percent arterial blockage before inserting a stent.

“They got the film and said it was 25 percent blockage,” Marshall said of the findings of his new physician.

Louisville attorney Hans Poppe represents Marshall and is consulting experts about other patients making similar allegations, including claims of frequent surgical procedures.

“Some of them as many as 20 in a year, and the physicians are saying ‘you didn't need these procedures done,’” Poppe said.

Marshall is also suing his doctors, including Dr. Anis Chalhoub, who performed that last procedure.

We tried contacting Dr. Chalhoub, but he did not respond to our requests.

“This guy's been hoo-dooing me all along. Right to my face,” Marshall said.”That's the reason I went to another doctor.”

According to the American Medical Association, side effects of unnecessary catheterization can include pain, death and lifetime dependence on medication.

“These are very profitable procedures. Some of these drug eluding stents that they're doing can be $10,000 to $15,000 per procedure,” Poppe said.

This isn't the first time Catholic Heath Initiatives has been accused of performing unnecessary procedures.

The company agreed to a $22 Million settlement with the federal government after allegations surfaced that the St. Joseph's Hospital in Towsend, MD took illegal kickbacks involving stent procedures and catheterizations.

In London, where the average income roughly $30,000 per capita per year, many heart procedures are performed on Medicare or Medicaid patients, meaning taxpayers ultimately foot the bills.

Poppe says he's concerned about Catholic Health Initiatives’ merger with University of Louisville Medical Center, Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s Medical Center.

“What we're talking about is creating the largest health care facility in the state,” Poppe said.

Catholic Health Initiatives said, “We are aware of the lawsuit and take the allegations seriously, but we cannot comment any further on pending litigation."

The company's response to the allegations in the lawsuit are not due until mid-October.

Click here to see the full lawsuit.