13 Investigates


Bad Medicine? Patients, healthcare professionals say doctor poses danger to public

Posted at 1:41 PM, May 18, 2020

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Judy Hogue can barely dress herself.

Sometimes she can barely stand.

"It's altered everything in my life," Judy explained through tears. "I don't feel freedom, you know?"

She's only 70 but can't get around without a walker, can't drive and has permanent damage to the part of her brain that controls hearing and balance.

"I can't even pick up a box with two hands. All the little things you take for granted are gone."

All because of treatment for an infection after a dog bite in December 2018.

Judy went to Dr. Dhaval Shah, the owner and supervising physician of Clinical Infectious Disease Specialists or CIDS.

She went daily to the clinic near Smoke Ranch and Tenaya Way for intravenous antibiotics.

"What kind of care do you feel like you got?" 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears asked.

"Careless care," said Judy. "It certainly wasn't appropriate. It wasn't good."

The side effects sent her to the emergency room, but CIDS staff kept her treatment the same.

Medical records show a "permanent deficit" to the vestibular portion of Judy's brain that doctors say is due to antibiotic toxicity.

"Everything I do is a struggle," Judy said.

Karie Catalano knows about struggle, too. She lost her daughter, Kalie Drew, who was also a patient of Dr. Shah’s.

In a written statement, Catalano said:

How would I describe my daughter, Kalie? I never thought in a million years I would have to write this. I'm not supposed to outlive my children. My beautiful Kalie was and is a strong, articulate, free-spirited young lady who always had a smile on her face wherever she was. On February 13, 2019 myself and my family's life changed forever. My new normal is a life without my daughter. All because a simple phone call wasn't made. A day doesn't go by without replaying Kalie's last week of life. My heart hurts thinking about if only that phone call was made, if only an emergency contact was called, if only I was called. If only.

Kalie was 24 years old when she died.

Court records accuse Dr. Shah and his physician's assistant of failure to review her lab results, which showed critically elevated levels of potassium in her blood.

"According to our expert, everybody in the medical profession knows that that is a devastatingly awful, extremely high critical value," said Attorney Matthew Hoffmann, who represents Catalano in an ongoing lawsuit against Dr. Shah that alleges neglect and wrongful death.

Kalie’s family says no one called her or them about the results or the imminent danger to her health.

The phone call from a P.A. came one day after Kalie Drew died.

"My client's daughter had critical values that were in black and white and had they been relayed it could have prevented a death," said Hoffmann.

Just as Kalie’s family is suing Dr. Shah, Judy plans to do the same.

"This is certainly negligent medical care," said Andrew Thomas, Judy's lawyer.

"A patient is supposed to be able to trust her doctor and what happened to Judy was a betrayal of that trust."

A betrayal described by some who worked alongside Dr. Shah.

13 Investigates has spoken to numerous medical professionals affiliated with CIDS, including Dr. Kristi Kaminsky, who worked in the clinic's wound care department.

She quit because of what she saw.

"As doctors we take a Hippocratic oath and our first thing is to do no harm, and I saw too many patients not getting better."

The allegations against Dr. Shah are piling up.

A complaint filed with the state by a healthcare professional on behalf of Judy and 21 other patients alleges chronic under-dosing at CIDS. A business model meant to prolong treatment and increase profit at the expense of patient care.

The complaint describes allegedly "fraudulent practices" at CIDS and claims patients "received substandard care that led to emergency room visits, no improvement or worsening illness, unnecessary medical costs and unnecessarily prolonged treatment."

"It just in my eyes was not ethical," said Dr. Kaminsky.

She says Judy "should have been given the medicine twice a day. She was given it once. Then the medicine she was switched on to, she was also under-dosed."

The longer the treatment, the bigger the bills.

Dr. Kaminsky says Judy's blood tests repeatedly showed levels of antibiotic indicating the drugs weren't helping the infection.

She says that should have raised red flags but when she tried to question it, Dr. Shah brushed off her concerns.

"Someone like this should not be practicing medicine, in my opinion," Dr. Kaminsky said.

The Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners has formally charged Dr. Shah with malpractice involving two different patients, both of whom died.

The most recent complaint filed in March stems from the death of a 73-year-old patient. It says Dr. Shah "failed to ensure appropriate antibiotics were ordered for and given to the patient," failed to supervise his physician assistant and failed to keep accurate records.

The other active malpractice complaint was filed July 12, 2019. It involves a young mother who was just 25 years old when she died after Dr. Shah's P.A. and business colleague allegedly failed to recognize imaging studies and lab results indicating tuberculosis.

Dr. Shah declined an on-camera interview on the advice of his attorneys, Crane M. Pomerantz and John Fayeghi. But the lawyers sent a statement which says:

The well-being of Dr. Shah’s patients has always been his paramount concern. Dr. Shah recently reached a settlement with the Board of Medicine’s Investigative Committee that, pending final approval by the full Board, satisfactorily addressed its concerns about the manner in which he practices, and he intends to work hard to earn and keep the trust of the Board and the public. In order to demonstrate his sincerity, he has stepped away from his practice and is currently devoting time and resources, on a volunteer basis, to assist with the response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. He values the opportunity to treat the citizens of Nevada.

But does he value profit even more? Yes, say many people who spoke to 13 Investigates.

"And it may be an issue of the doctor putting financial interests ahead of the patient's safety," said Attorney Andrew Thomas.

Judy Hogue has multiple bills for office visits with CIDS doctors she says she never saw, and some for infusions she says she never got.

On January 16, CIDS billed Medicare $200 for a "long visit" with a doctor Judy never saw for anything.

She also had no office visits with Dr. Shah, but he, too, billed Medicare for visits, infusions and injections.

"I've also experienced some billing being billed out in my name, also in other doctors' names, that did not do the services provided," said Dr. Kaminsky. "That was unacceptable to me because that's done in my name."

Dr. Kaminsky finally left CIDS after her repeated concerns fell on deaf ears. 13 Investigates obtained another complaint filed with the Nevada Attorney General by a former CIDS employee that echoes those concerns, calling Shah "shady and deceitful."

It also questions billing practices, claiming "multiple Medicare and Medicaid patients" only saw physician assistants but were billed for visits with Dr. Shah at a time when "he was out of the country."

"I feel it was just for getting money in as fast as possible," Dr. Kaminsky said.

She is still helping Judy and hoping accountability comes before more people get hurt.

Dr. Shah's troubles extend beyond the courtroom and beyond the state medical board.

He was cited for violations in 2018 by the U.S. Department of Labor after failing to pay staff overtime.

And MM Labs, a marijuana testing facility Shah was president of, self-closed several months ago after state regulators found unacceptable levels of yeast and mold had escaped detection.

The state's investigation into possible intentional manipulation of test results at MM Labs is still pending.

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