Denver Clinic Faces $3.2 Million in Fines for Unauthorized Scans of Patients

A Denver clinic faces $3.2 million in state fines for conducting CT scans on patients without orders from a licensed doctor.

Colorado health officials, in a news release, said the Denver office of Tinley Park, Ill.,-based Heart Check America conducted the scans on about 150 people every week. It exposed them to “potentially unnecessary radiation doses without a doctor’s involvement,” said Brian Vamvakias, X-ray certification unit leader at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The Associated Press reported that a state official said authorities are not aware of any cases where someone was harmed by a radiation from a CT scan at the Denver clinic. A CT, or computerized tomography, scan combines a series of X-ray views taken from different angles to produce cross-sectional images of the body’s bones and soft tissues.

Heart Check America’s Denver office has been closed since May, the month after state inspectors determined it was carrying out unauthorized scans and ordered the clinic to halt the practice. Colorado health officials said operators of the clinic stopped returning calls and emptied its offices within three days of receiving an official violation notice.

Heart Check America — which also operates or has operated clinics in llinois, Nevada, New York, South Carolina, California, and Washington, D.C. — is accused of shady practices outside of Colorado, too.

In June the Illinois attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit accusing owner Sheila Haddad and her son, David, manager of Heart Check America, of pressuring patients into undergoing expensive and often unnecessary body scans, according to the investigative news organization ProPublica.

Illinois officials said the Haddads used “unfair and deceptive business practices” to manipulate possibly thousands of consumers into 10-year screening contracts costing up to $7,000, in addition to annual dues.

The operators of the Denver clinic have 30 days to pay the proposed fine or appeal. The fine covers nine citations, including failure to have a state-licensed physician supervise the clinic’s CT scanner, exposing patients to scans without a written order from a doctor and failure to monitor employee’s radiation exposure.

Colorado health officials said the $3.2 million penalty, if paid, would be the largest ever collected by the state’s radiation program.

Todd Kaplan, the project director of Heart Check America’s Denver clinic, did not immediately return a call from the AP for comment on the citations against his office.

In an interview earlier this year with ProPublica, David Haddad admitted the company had made some mistakes but said it was taking steps to bring all of its centers into compliance with government standards. “People come back and say, ‘Thank you, my wife will be [alive] because we found this,’” Haddad said. “People hug and kiss us goodbye in these clinics.”

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