12 Doctors From One Clinic Charged In Fraud

Health

12 Doctors From One Clinic Charged In Fraud

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The waiting room of a busy Mississauga walk-in clinic was deserted yesterday, hours after police announced that they had charged 12 of the clinic’s doctors with pulling off one of the biggest health claims frauds in the province’s history.

The Ontario Provincial Police fraud unit alleges that 12 doctors who have practised at one time or other at the Advanced Walk-In Clinic on Queensway West defrauded the Ontario Health Insurance Plan of about $2-million between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 1997.

“It is the biggest case we’ve done in terms of volume and the number of doctors charged,” said Detective Staff Sergeant Keith Messham of the OPP who spent almost two years investigating this case at the request of the Ministry of Health.

Police charged 11 of the doctors on March 1, but waited until yesterday to make their announcement because one doctor was away on vacation and did not receive a summons until later, Det. Sgt. Messham said.

Police allege the doctors, seven of whom still work at the clinic, billed for medical services that were not rendered and not necessary and billed for medically unnecessary referrals to specialists.

The clinic, which employs 50 physicians and 19 other employees, has among its specialists an allergist, a cardiologist and a pediatrician.

Each doctor has been charged with one count of fraud over $5,000 and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud over $5,000.

Det. Sgt. Messham refused to comment on exactly what services are alleged to have been billed for or what procedures they say were not medically necessary.

He said the unnecessary referrals were made to various specialists.

Clinic owner Dr. Carlo Meola, one of the 12 charged, refused to comment yesterday.

Dr. Meola is listed in the Canadian Medical Directory as a 1985 graduate of the University of British Columbia medical school.

“It is inappropriate for us to make any comment at this time,” said Sean McPhee, spokesman for the clinic, which sees between 350 and 400 patients a day. “As for our operations, it is business as usual,”

Ontario Health Minister Elizabeth Witmer’s spokesman Barry Wilson said he could not comment because the case is before the courts.

In 1997, the Ontario Health Ministry announced a plan to eliminate fraud in Ontario’s health system. By late last year, the health fraud squad had opened 190 cases, mostly against doctors and pharmacists, alleging that they defrauded OHIP of a total of $5.6-million.

The doctors are scheduled to appear in a Brampton court on March 28.

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