A Chicago pulmonologist has been identified as holding the same position at Sacred Heart Hospital as “Physician D,” the doctor federal authorities say performed medically unnecessary tracheotomies at the West Side hospital, according to a report.
Dr. Venkata Buddharaju has not been formally accused in any aspect of the federal investigation at Sacred Heart, where the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago have alleged that administrators and doctors engaged in various schemes, including kickbacks to physicians, intended to defraud the Medicare program.
In a 90-page complaint released in April, federal authorities say Physician D deliberately oversedated patients so they would not be able to breath on their own. Once a patient was deemed dependent on a ventilator, the doctor would order a tracheotomy, the complaint alleges.
Physician D is described in the complaint as the chair of the critical-care committee of Sacred Heart's medical staff. According to a story published by Bloomberg on Friday, Dr. Buddharaju holds that position.
Dr. Buddharaju's lawyer, Thomas Breen, confirmed to Bloomberg that his client holds the critical-care chairmanship but told the news service the allegations in the federal complaint are “untrue.”
“While it would appear that Dr. Buddharaju is Physician D in the complaint based on his job title and his chairmanship of the Critical Care Committee, the rest of the description and allegations do not conform to the medical care or decisions made by Dr. Buddharaju,” Mr. Breen told Bloomberg.
In the complaint, the FBI alleges that Sacred Heart CEO Edward Novak called tracheotomies, in which a hole is made in a patient's throat to insert a breathing tube, the hospital's “biggest money maker,” bringing in $160,000 if the patient stays 27 days.
Mr. Breen did not immediately respond to a call from Crain's to comment.
Federal law enforcement officials on April 16 arrested Mr. Novak, Chief Financial Officer Roy Payawal, and Drs. Venkateswara Kuchipudi, Percy Conrad May, Subir Maitra and Shanin Moshiri in connection with the alleged kickback scheme. They arrested a fifth doctor, Kenneth Nave, the next day, alleging he prescribed painkillers without authorization.
Lawyers for each defendant have denied the accusations.