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DOCTORS BLAMED IN SUITS UNNEEDED TREATMENT, FALSE BILLING CLAIMED.

Byline: Karen Maeshiro Staff Writer

QUARTZ HILL - A Quartz Hill medical clinic is the target of two lawsuits that allege its staff submitted fraudulent bills, addicted patients to prescription drugs and provided unnecessary treatment to boost revenue.

A physician who worked nearly a year at Quartz Hill Walk-in Medical Group wrote in a declaration submitted with one of the lawsuits that staff members put casts on children for nonexistent fractures and prescribed addictive painkillers to increase profits.

``I voluntarily terminated my relationship ... when my conscience would no longer allow me to be involved in the illegal, unethical and immoral practices of the clinic and its owners,'' Dr. Michael Lauer wrote.

The urgent care clinic is run by Dr. John Blodgett and his son, Dr. Jeffrey Blodgett, an osteopathic physician. Messages left for them and their attorneys were not returned. A clinic worker said John Blodgett is on medical leave.

Lauer's declaration was part of a lawsuit filed two weeks ago by the mother of a boy who claimed the clinic intentionally misdiagnosed the boy's injury and put a cast on him ``despite the absence of medical necessity or reason ...,'' court records show.

A wrongful-termination lawsuit filed last August by a a former clinic employee said she questioned what she thought were improper billing practices. Jury selection in that case started two weeks ago, but was halted after both sides agreed to binding arbitration.

Lancaster attorney R. Rex Parris is representing the ex-employee as well as the boy and his mother in their lawsuits.

State Medical Board officials said they could not comment on whether the agency had received any complaints against the Blodgetts or the clinic. Pending investigations are not public record, officials said.

Records that are public show that John Blodgett, 72, had a history of substance abuse and disciplinary action dating back to 1965.

John Blodgett had his medical license revoked four times between 1965 and 1982 - the first two times the revocation was stayed and he was put on probation - for, among other things, writing drug prescriptions for himself and testing positive for cocaine.

John Blodgett's request to have his license reinstated was granted in 1985, and he was placed on another 10 years' probation. His probation ended in 1994.

The medical board ruling that ended his probation said John Blodgett had received treatment for alcohol and substance abuse in 1992 and has been clean and sober since, records show.

John Blodgett has operated the Quartz Hill Walk-In Medical Group since 1988. He previously was with Sierra Medical Group from 1985 to 1988, records show.

``Petitioner has had a problem with alcoholism and chemical dependency in the past, which was the basis of his disciplinary actions,'' the ruling said. ``In over 20 years of private practice and emergency room medicine, petitioner has never been sued for malpractice. His background has enabled him to successfully treat patients who are chemically dependent.''

Blodgett was certified in the specialty of addiction medicine in 1989 by the American Society on Addiction Medicine, records show.

Included with Blodgett's request to end his probation were letters on his behalf by other physicians, one who credited him with helping hundreds of people gain sobriety.

``I admire Dr. Blodgett for having turned his greatest liability into his strongest asset,'' wrote Dr. James Ungar. ``He has paid his dues to society.''

In his declaration, Lauer said he worked at the Blodgetts' Quartz Hill urgent care clinic from August 2001 until he quit June 14.

``Physicians and staff of the clinic are required by the owners to apply every possible treatment modality to each patient without regard to medical necessity for the purpose of maximizing the charges to the patient,'' Lauer wrote.

``Dr. Jeffrey Blodgett and Dr. John Blodgett knowingly prescribed addictive medications for the purpose of addicting patients who will then return for further care and treatment, thus increasing profits,'' Lauer wrote.

``The physicians and staff at the clinic knowingly falsify billing records, insurance records and patient charts for the purpose of increasing profits and disguising unethical and illegal medical practice,'' Lauer wrote.

Lauer said X-rays were taken of children involved in minor traumas with joint pain, whether they were needed or not. Even when an X-ray did not show a fracture, the child was put in a cast and parents were told there was a fracture, Lauer wrote.

``In fact, the practice was done in order to generate billings associated with the increased medical procedures,'' Lauer wrote.

``Laboratory results of patients were routinely screened by nonphysicians and untrained medical support staff. On one such occasion, lack of proper screening resulted in a patient with suspected diabetes not being properly diagnosed and treated. As a result, that patient ended up in a coma and near death due to dangerously high blood sugar levels that were not properly diagnosed and treated,'' Lauer wrote.

Many clinic patients come in as many as three times per week for injections of Demerol, a prescription pain reliever and sedative, Lauer wrote.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 30, 2002
Words:830
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