UPMC, surgeon to pay $8.5M for allegedly performing multiple complex surgeries at once

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, cardiothoracic surgeon James Luketich, MD, and a physicians group will pay $8.5 million to settle a lawsuit accusing them of submitting false claims to Medicare and putting patients at risk by failing to follow medical standards, according to a Feb. 27 report from TribLive.

The lawsuit alleges that Dr. Luketich was allowed to schedule and perform multiple complex surgeries at once, forcing him to move between operating rooms, and even hospitals, while procedures were ongoing. 

Patients were often made to stay under anesthesia for long periods of time. One patient alleges that Dr. Luketich's actions resulted in lost parts of a hand, while another alleges they lost a lower leg as a result. 

Dr. Luketich allegedly performed up to three complex surgeries at the same time, allowing for the health system to bill more procedures through Medicare. 

"While UPMC continues to believe Dr. Luketich's surgical practice complies with CMS' requirements, it has agreed to pay $8.5 million to the government to avoid the distraction and expense of further litigation," Paul Wood, a UPMC spokesperson, told TribLive. 

UPMC will seek further clarity from Medicare going forward, according to the report. 

In addition to the $8.5 million settlement, the defendants must create a future plan of action for Dr. Luketich. They will also submit to a third-party audit of Dr. Luketich's Medicare billing for a year. 

The initial lawsuit was brought on following allegations from former UPMC surgical director Jonathan D'Cunha, MD, PhD, who was with the system until 2019. He filed a whistleblower complaint in April 2019. 

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