Parker Hughes Reportedly Investigated
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ The founder of the Parker Hughes Cancer Center is accused of excessively treating a terminally ill woman and seeking kickbacks in exchange for referring patients to other specialists, the Star Tribune reported Friday.
The allegations against Dr. Fatih Uckun are part of a broad investigation into the Roseville clinic by the Minnesota Attorney General’s office, which has requested the medical records of 25 Parker Hughes patients, the newspaper said.
Uckun told the Star Tribune the charges are false and the complaints were filed by former employees and competitors who are out to discredit him.
``These are the last efforts of individuals who are trying to hurt us,″ said Uckun, a former University of Minnesota medical professor.
Uckun said he and his staff are cooperating with the investigation for the Board of Medical Practice, and have turned over nearly 60,000 pages of documents, including the requested patient records.
Neither the attorney general’s office nor the medical board would comment to the Star Tribune for their report.
The newspaper said part of the state investigation is based on a 2001 complaint to the medical board about the ``excessive″ treatment of a 50-year-old terminally ill woman from Baytown Township in Washington County.
She began treatment at the clinic in 2000, just four months after it’s grand opening and just after she had surgery in Stillwater to remove a softball-sized tumor in her colon.
She underwent more than $120,000 in tests and treatments at Parker Hughes in seven months, including 74 office visits in 215 days, before she died that summer, the complaint said.
In the letter of complaint to the medical board, physicians at a Stillwater hospital and medical group expressed concern about ``overtreatment and mistreatment″ during her final months of life.
Uckun said was not aware of any allegations relating to the case until contacted by the Star Tribune. He said he was the woman’s consulting physician who oversaw treatment directed by her primary doctor.
He defended the woman’s medical treatment and said all the tests were appropriate and necessary to monitor her condition.
The Star Tribune also reported that a St. Paul radiologist, Dr. Anders Knutzen, has told both the FBI and the attorney general’s office that Uckun asked for a $100,000 donation in August 2002, in return for sending business to Knutzen’s group practice. Under federal law, it can be a felony to solicit a kickback, even indirectly, for referring a patient to a someone else.
Uckun, when asked by the Star Tribune if he sought the $100,000 from Knutzen, said: ``That is absolutely a lie. ... There is no gray in this. Absolutely never ever. Never ever.″
Finally, the newspaper cites a former Parker Hughes employee who told state investigators that Uckun told him to seek such donations to the nonprofit clinic from several medical groups.
Uckun says the clinic never received such payments, and he never told anyone to break the law. He blamed his troubles on professional rivalries. Uckun said some conflicts that he has had with physicians and other health care organizations might also have caused some of them to go the board, especially after he lodged complaints against them this year.
He said the medical board investigation is fundamentally unfair.
``I am very frustrated with what is happening with the Board of Medical Practice,″ said Uckun, 45. ``We have not heard from them the specific concerns and allegations that they are investigating. They are not sharing that with us.″
Robert Leach, executive director of the medical board, said he could ``neither confirm nor deny that we are conducting any investigation of Parker Hughes.″
This summer, Uckun announced that Parker Hughes would expand by opening branches in Arizona, Florida and California and three more clinics in Minnesota.
In 2002, revenues from patient care totaled $32.3 million and the clinic had 28,950 patient visits.
As the investigation wears on, Uckun says he’s taken defensive action. He has changed the legal status of his clinic, so it would not require a licensed medical doctor at the helm.
``If they take my license away I will still be able to be the executive,″ he said.