2 former patients sue Munster cardiologist
By Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org May 7, 2014 5:46PM
Updated: June 10, 2014 6:38AM
Two former patients of a Munster cardiologist are suing the doctor and Community Hospital over implanted pacemakers they said weren’t medically necessary, a finding that has been backed by the Indiana Department of Insurance.
The two plaintiffs, Gloria Sargent, 47, of Griffith, and Raymond Kammer, 32, of Akron, Ohio, also claim in their separate suits, filed a month ago in Lake County Circuit Court, that Dr. Arvind Gandhi used his position at Community to skirt rules overseeing who was credentialed to implant pacemaker-defibrillator devices.
A call for comment to Gandhi’s office was referred his attorney, Megan Brennan, who declined to comment.
Community said in a release that “there is no basis for any of the allegations made against Community Hospital ...”
Sargent’s lawsuit says she had received a defibrillator in early 2006 because of a weak heart but that Gandhi told her later that year she needed to “upgrade” to another one.
The first attempt on Dec. 13, 2006, failed, leading doctors to reinstall her original defibrillator. A second attempt the next day was successful, but Sargent claimed she experienced palpitations for the next year and had to go to the emergency room at Methodist Hospitals Southlake campus in Merrillville in February 2008.
Sargent said at a news conference Wednesday morning that she remained in poor health until she received a heart transplant in August, which the lawsuit claims was needed because of the second implant.
“I was weak a lot; I got tired very easily,” she said. “It was pretty bad.”
The Indiana Department of Insurance agreed with her in January that Gandhi “failed to comply with the appropriate standard of care,” which was part of her undergoing the implantation of an unnecessary upgrade.
However, the department also ruled that the upgrade did not cause her any long-term harm and that Community Hospital did not fail to meet the appropriate standard of care.
According to Kammer’s lawsuit, Gandhi told him in 2007 that he was experiencing heart failure and could soon die if he did not receive a defibrillator. Kammer, who was then living in Hammond, sought a second opinion from a doctor who told him the condition of his heart did not require a defibrillator and that any problems should be fixed by medication.
Gandhi continued to press on him, however, and Kammer agreed to surgery, which took place in June 2007.
“(Gandhi said) I could run the risk of dying,” Kammer said Wednesday. “That’s pretty intimidating.”
Although Kammer said during the news conference Wednesday that he has not experienced any physical problems from the device, he has since been told it is part of a recall because of defective parts.
The lawsuit claims that the device’s company, Medtronic, told doctors in March 2007, before Kammer’s surgery, that there were problems with the device.
The Department of Insurance did rule that Gandhi caused Kammer to get a medically unnecessary implant, although it again ruled that Community was not at fault.
Both lawsuits, which have been filed by attorney Paul Rossi on behalf of Sargent and Kammer, also claim that Gandhi, a general cardiologist, was never properly trained or certified to implant defibrillators and that he used his position at Community to change the hospital’s rules about how doctors can be credentialed to perform such procedures to allow him to become credentialed.
Community has filed for summary judgment in its favor in both cases, citing the finding by the Department of Insurance.
Two other attorneys at the news conference, David Cutshaw and Barry Rooth, cited a federal lawsuit filed in 2011 by two other Community Hospital workers, Dr. David Jayakar and Brian Decker, as the spark for these two new lawsuits.
That suit, which was filed on behalf of the federal government, claimed that, among other things, Gandhi was pushing defibrillators for money.
The federal government later intervened and reached a settlement in 2012 with Gandhi and the hospital, but not over unnecessary defibrillators. Both parties instead agreed to pay a total of $116,393 to the federal government over sending cardiac monitoring devices home with patients for free and then billing insurance companies for them.
Neither Gandhi nor Community admitted wrongdoing, and Community said Wednesday that the issue was over payment related to the home monitoring devices, although it says the hospital never received any money for the devices.
All other claims were dismissed as part of the settlement.