Indiana doctor and his colleagues performed needless surgeries that were big money makers.
After six years, a $66.5 million settlement has been reached between an Indiana cardiology group and attorneys representing 260 patients who claimed group performed unnecessary cardiac procedures and device implantations. Firms Theodoros & Rooth, of Merrillville, and Cohen & Malad LLP, of Indianapolis, represented patients who sued Dr. Arvind Gandhi, his associates at Cardiology Associates of Northwest Indiana and Community Hospital in Munster.
The lawsuits alleged “Gandhi and his associates performed unnecessary pacemaker and defibrillator implantations, open-heart surgeries, angiograms and stentings because of the large monetary reimbursements the procedures bring.” The plaintiffs also claimed, “Community Hospital failed to respond to warnings about Gandhi from other hospital physicians.”
The defendants “deny that they had engaged in any negligent or otherwise improper conduct and deny any liability relative to the claims,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys said. “The specific terms of the settlement are confidential. Paperwork from the claimants or their estates are being completed to consummate the settlement.”
When Dr. Mark Dixon, former medical director of Community Hospital’s electrophysiology lab, where defibrillators were implanted, voiced his concerns in 2005 to a hospital executive about whether Dr. Gandhi and others were qualified to implant the devices, his inquiry fell on deaf ears.
“The response to me was, ‘I understand your concern, but we have a very large producer here who wants the privilege,’” Dr. Dixon said in a deposition. He said he was “later told to stop reviewing implants performed at the hospital by the nurse manager of the lab.”
“Cardiology, whether we like it or not, is generally a big moneymaker for hospitals,” said Dr. Steven Nissen, chief of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic and the former president of the American College of Cardiology. “We are still a fee-for-service system, and that creates, in my view, misaligned incentives among some physicians to do more procedures and among some institutions, particularly in areas where there is not tight medical supervision, to turn a blind eye and enjoy the high revenue stream.”
Public Medicare reimbursement records indicate Dr. Gandhi and his partners, Dr. Wail Asfour and Dr. Satyaprakash Makam, received nearly $5 million in combined Medicare payments in 2012 alone.
Dr. Gandhi arrived in Munster in 1981 after completing his cardiology fellowship in Chicago.
“He was supposed to be the best cardiologist in the area,” said Phil Probus, 86, who had a defibrillator implanted that he was later told was unnecessary. “I never questioned anything he did.”
The physician retired in fall 2015 after a jury returned a verdict against him in a civil case, awarding Sharon Greer $450,000 that December. In that case, Gandhi and Cardiology Associates of Northwest Indiana were accused of improperly treating an infection in her husband Ken Greer’s pacemaker in October 2011, leading to the 65-year-old’s death the same month.
Attorneys for the defendants initially said the lawsuits were without merit. “The legal actions,” they stated, “are being driven by envious physicians eager to take patients from Dr. Gandhi and by greedy lawyers seeking a big settlement. The physicians at Cardiology Associates have exemplary records as outstanding cardiologists and leaders in their field.”