St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, MD, is facing lawsuits and a pair of federal investigations related to its cardiac care business, has informed another 169 heart patients that they received expensive and potentially dangerous treatments they might not have needed. The additional cases brings the total number to 538 patients that have been notified by St. Joseph regarding potentially unnecessary coronary stent implants. Hospital officials also said an internal review of patient records is continuing, and that more questionable procedures could be uncovered.
The St. Joseph's announcement was the latest flare-up in an issue that has already spawned a class action lawsuit, prompted the removal of a prominent physician and elicited the interest of the U.S. Senate. It also could result in a multimillion-dollar fine for the hospital. The hospital began investigating its heart catheterization practices after receiving warnings from a patient and from federal investigators last year, and quickly focused on stents implanted by Dr. Mark Midei, a leading cardiologist and one of the hospital's senior physicians.
Hospital officials say their review uncovered stents implanted by Midei in patients with insignificant blockage. The hospital says it enlisted a group of outside cardiology specialists to review records from stent patients, and they quickly focused on Midei. The hospital sent 369 letters to patients late last year notifying them their stents might have been inappropriate and encouraging them to call their doctors. Several lawsuits have since been filed on behalf of patients.
Last month, two senior members of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee called on St. Joseph to turn over records of its financial relationships with stent manufacturers, including records of how the $10,000 procedures were billed to federal and private insurers. Since Midei's problems began, many of his patients have surfaced to speak out in his defense. The Web site www.markmidei.com, which says it was started by friends without Midei's knowledge or assistance, has numerous posts from patients and colleagues describing lifesaving procedures he performed, and decrying the lawsuits and legal advertisements that use his name.