CHARLESTON – At least two Charleston law offices are investigating claims by former Raleigh General Hospital patients regarding unnecessary cardiac procedures performed by a surgeon at the hospital.
Berthold Law Firm and Preston & Salango are investigating the claims that patients who had cardiac procedures performed by Dr. Donald Kenneth Glaser, an interventional cardiologist, during his employment with Raleigh General Hospital between fall 2009 and fall 2013, may have had those procedures done unnecessarily.
In 2008, Raleigh General performed 107 cardiac procedures. In 2009, the hospital performed 350 cardiac procedures, an increase of more than 300 percent.
In 2010, during Glaser's first full year as the director of Raleigh General's interventional cardiology unit, the number of cardiac procedures rose to 1,745. In 2011, the hospital performed approximately 1,700 cardiac procedures and in 2012, performed 2,109 cardiac procedures.
In January, Raleigh identified a number of patients and sent letters to them, indicating that they cardiac procedures "may not have been medically indicated," according to the letter.
In the letter, the hospital stated that it had recently undertaken a review of some angioplasty/stent procedures done at its facility and through that process, had determined that some of the procedures had not been medically necessary.
Matthew Berthold said that Berthold Law Firm has reason to believe there were more than had been affected than just those who received letters.
"We have more than 20 individuals whose claims we are reviewing," Berthold said. "We are still at the initial stage of investigating."
Benjamin Salango, who filed the first complaint against the hospital on Raleigh County on Feb. 26, said his firm has about 65 former Raleigh General patients whose claims he is reviewing.
"Our evidence shows that Raleigh General knew by March 2010 about the unnecessary procedures and did not take action until 2013," Salango said.
Salango said he believes they have a very strong case against Glaser and the hospital.
Raleigh General is a subsidiary of LifePoint Hospitals Inc., which is based in Brentwood, Tenn.
On Feb. 12, LifePoint indicated that it had self-reported the improper interventional cardiology procedures, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
LifePoint self-reported the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice after discovering two cardiologists conducted improper procedures at Vaughan Regional Medical Center in Selma, Ala., and at Raleigh General.
Neither cardiologist is still practicing at any LifePoint-affiliated hospital. By December, at least 15 lawsuits were filed against Vaughan Regional, as well as its former cardiologist, Dr. Seydi V. Aksut.
On Sept. 16, 2013, LifePoint, Vaughan and Raleigh made a voluntary self-disclosure to the Civil Division of the DOJ, according to the SEC filing.
"The voluntary self-disclosure related to concerns regarding the clinical appropriateness of certain interventional cardiology procedures conducted by one physician in each of these hospitals' cardiac catheterization laboratories," the filing stated.
On Sept. 24, 2013, the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of West Virginia served a subpoena on Raleigh General Hospital and the hospital produced responsive documents to the subpoena, including patient files, according to the filing.
" The government investigations are ongoing and we continue to cooperate with the government in addressing these matters," the filing stated. "Following reviews by independent interventional cardiologists, we notified patients of these two physicians who may have received an unnecessary procedure of such fact. Our efforts to locate and notify a relatively small number of these patients are ongoing."
LifePoint released a statement, stating the hospital values the trust and confidence of its patients and communities place in its hospitals and that it regrets any concern the matter may cause. The hospital also stated that it would continue to work to resolve the issues as quickly as possible.
The one lawsuit that has been filed in West Virginia involves Earl Douglas Johnson and names Raleigh General, Glaser, LifePoint Hospitals Inc., LifePoint WV Holdings Inc. and Raleigh General Director of the Cardiac and Pulmonary Services Veronica Ronni Pettiford as defendants.
Johnson was 84 when Glaser performed two cardiac catheterizations and placed a total of three stents into his arteries. Johnson claims the procedures were not medically necessary and that Raleigh General was negligent in hiring and retaining Glaser as its employee.
Johnson also claims the defendants were negligent in credentialing and/or re-credentialing Glaser. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.