Just when you thought the U.S. health care system couldn't get any more screwed up, a lawsuit filed this week by the Santa Ana-based law firm Callahan & Blaine accuses a local medical tycoon with a controversial past and four Orange County hospitals to his name of wreaking havoc on hospitals in neighboring Riverside County.
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Filed Oct. 31 in Riverside County Superior Court, the lawsuit alleges that Dr. Kali P. Chaudhuri, who is a majority stakeholder in the Integrated HealthCare Holdings, Inc. (IHHI), which owns the Western Medical Centers of Anaheim and Santa Ana, Chapman Medical Center in Orange and Santa Ana's Coastal Communities Hospital, has "engaged in fraud, racketeering and corruption" in his dealings with 909-area physicians, thereby threatening the health care of thousands of patients.
Specifically, a press release announcing the lawsuit states, "Chaudhuri has begun depriving several medical groups in Riverside County of millions of dollars they need to operate their medical practices . . . withholding more than $1.5 million of net revenue." Worse still, it claims, "Chaudhuri has attempted to leverage ownership control of these medical groups by engaging in forgery, falsifying documents and concealing and misrepresenting financial records."
When the physicians now suing Chaudhuri tried to keep him from taking over their medical group, he allegedly sent 6000 letters to patients saying their bills wouldn't be paid unless they switched to a separate plan he controlled. But first he had the patients' doctors sign blank pieces of paper, which he then turned into said letters, so that it would appear the doctors were the ones making the threat.
OC Weekly readers may remember Chaudhuri from our previous coverage of a bizarre series of events involving IHHI and a whistleblower, Dr. Michael Fitzgibbons, who was framed in a phony road rage incident after he criticized the company. Fitzgibbons and other doctors had earned IHHI's wrath by trying to keep Chaudhuri from taking over the company's ownership, because in 2000, he purchased dozens of Southern California medical clinics and promptly shuttered them, leaving thousands of patients stranded with no access to medical care--or their own records.
Given all that, you'd think there'd a law on the books by now preventing Chaudhuri from getting anywhere near a hospital, but as the new lawsuit reveals, he's still going strong. "Our healthcare system is delicate enough without the improprieties of corporate greed interfering with the care and treatment of patients," remarked Callahan & Blaines' Marc P. Miles. "It is not enough to sift through the carnage often left by Dr. Chaudhuri, but instead action must be taken now to prevent wrongful acts and preserve quality healthcare."