The federal government has just joined nurse whistleblower Lana Rogers in a False Claims Act case against Dr. Najam Azmat and Satilla Health Services, Inc. in Waycross, Georgia. Rogers’ Complaint alleges that Azmat performed multiple surgical procedures that he was unqualified to perform and without the proper credentials, leading to the death of at least one patient and the serious injury of others at Satilla Regional Medical Center. Dr. Azmat’s previous employer had restricted his privileges due to a high percentage of morbidity resulting from his procedures. Allegedly knowing this, the hospital nevertheless permitted him to perform the procedures and sent the bills to Medicare for “totally worthless medical services and procedures.” If federal prosecutors succeed in the lawsuit Rogers will receive up to 25% of the award, which potentially includes treble damages and stiff civil penalties.
According to DoJ, the death at Satilla was caused by Dr. Azmat’s lack of competence and training:
“Dr. Azmat perforated the patient’s renal artery, causing her to bleed to death. Dr. Azmat allegedly did not even recognize that he had perforated the patient’s artery and failed to take appropriate action to address the complication.”
U.S. Attorney Edward Tarver says that these healthcare fraud allegations are particularly disturbing because the alleged actions resulted in physical harm and death. “The fraud alleged in this case not only caused financial loss to the government,” said Tarver. “But sadly also endangered the lives of federal health care program beneficiaries.” Not only were the procedures performed by Azmat dangerous, they were often unnecessary according to Roger’s complaint:
“By way of example, in one of the very first surgeries that Azmat performed at Satilla, Azmat performed surgery on a patient in order to remove the patient’s gall bladder only to discover after he opened the patient up that the patient’s gall bladder had already been removed some years before.”
Despite these and many other alleged complications and repeated warnings by Rogers and other nurses, the hospital heavily marketed Azmat’s services and billed Medicare, running ads that stated: “Dr. Azmat keeps things running smoothly. For example, your blood.” Read all of the allegations against Dr. Azmat and the hospital in the whistleblower Complaint below: