Patients of Dr. Fata protest medical record fees

Dr. Farid Fata faces health care fraud charge; patients, families now left with mess of questions

Author: Lisa Ray, Managing Editor, ClickOnDetroit.com, @ClickOnLisa, lray@wdiv.com
Published On: Sep 07 2013 04:29:24 AM EDT   Updated On: Sep 07 2013 06:47:30 PM EDT
Dr Fata protest
PONTIAC, Mich. -

Inside Dr Farid Fata investigation The group 'Patients and Families Treated by Dr. Fata' picketed Crittenton Hospital on Saturday in protest of being charged for copies of their medical records.

Members of the group said they're being charged an average of $2,000 to get their hands on their medical histories.

Read back: Fata patients gather for mutual support

Cheryl Blades' mother Nancy was under Fata's care for 5 years before dying of a brain hemorrhage. She wonders if the chemo therapy did it. Blades requested the records from Crittendon Hospital and found at more than $1 a page it was more than she could afford.

"I lost my best friend. I need answers to find out did she leave us because of what Dr. Fata did? Was is it because she was sick?" Blades said.

She's not alone. Jeff Berz got a bill for $1,000. He said "there's a point where you put money aside and help people."

Diane Sawgle said, "Charging me for information my husband paid his life for? How dare they."

Kathie mith's husband survived just ten more months after being treated by Dr. Fata.

"We would have had our 50th wedding anniversary," Smith said.

Smith was also angered by the bills for the records, which have reportedly ranged from $800 to $3,000 for copies.

"That's a lot of money to find out what we should know for free anyway," Smith said.

The accusations aimed at Dr. Farid Fata claim he bilked Medicare out of $35 million and prescribed chemotherapy to patients who didn't have cancer. With an alleged fraud so massive, Fata billed Medicare at a massive rate no other physician in the entire state can even come close to, why did it take so long to be uncovered?

More: Doctor fraud case: what happens to patient records?

Those working this case say it's simple. Dr. Fata did virtually everything possible in-house at his practice. For example, sources tell us he would mix chemo drugs without a licensed pharmacist present. His offices had equipment like PET scan machines so patients wouldn't go elsewhere for the tests.

Fata was seeing a lot of patients—every day. Investigators estimate he saw 70 to 80 patients daily. He alone generated a lot of money for Crittenton Hospital.

Brian Birney, a spokesman for Crittenton Hospital, said it is standard policy to charge for records, and the hospital is working with families to pinpoint only the records they need to help keep the costs down.

"There is a cost associated. We work with a third party," Birney said. "It is not something Crittenton is billing themselves or getting revenue, and so I understand that is the perception at times, but that's not exactly the story."

Some family members said other hospitals are not charging for access to records.

Other families are hiring attorneys to help get the records for them.

Those working this case said the majority of cases with questionable diagnoses are blood cancers. It's interesting to note that Fata was turned down by Beaumont Hospital for credentials. The credentialing process is a serious business, so much so that in medical malpractice cases one of the first things usually asked of a physician whose judgment and skill have been called into question is whether they have been denied credentials.

Hospitals can deny credentials for a variety of reasons including everything from educational background to reputation in the community. Beaumont clearly didn't think Fata was up to par.

Currently Dr. Fata remains behind bars, his attorney said he does not have the assets available to post a $9 million bond while the case against home proceeds. Federal sources told Local 4 don't be surprised if at the end of this there is a superseding indictment charging Fata with murder in addition to the fraud claims.