DoJ steps in to help fight battle against Georgia heart center

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The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has intervened with the False Claims Act filed against the Satilla Regional Heart Center in Waycross, Ga., after  Najam Azmat, MD, allegedly submitted claims to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for unnecessary services that he was neither qualified nor credentialed to perform—a patient died as a result.

The suit was filed by Lana Rodgers, formally employed at Satilla as a nurse. The complaint alleges that Satilla employees placed Azmat on their staff even with prior knowledge that Azmat had restricted privileges at his former place of employment because of a track record of high complication rates during surgical procedures.

According to the DoJ, the Satilla staff permitted Azmat to perform endovascular procedures even though he did not hold the privileges to perform the complex procedures.

During one of his procedures, Azmat punctured a patient’s renal artery causing her to bleed out, resulting in death. The complaint states that Azmat did not recognize that he had punctured the patient’s artery and failed to take the necessary steps to address and treat the complication.

According to the DoJ, nurses at the facility continuously addressed Azmat’s incompetence with hospital management; however, even despite high procedural complication rates, the facility kept Azmat on staff and allowed him to continue to perform surgeries and bill CMS for reimbursements.

The investigation is currently being looked at by the DoJ’s Civil Division alongside the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia, the Office of Inspector General and the Department of Health and Human Services.

"The fraud alleged in this case not only caused financial loss to the government, but sadly also endangered the lives of federal healthcare program beneficiaries," said U.S. attorney Edward Tarver.