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No talks held to settle Excela Health stent lawsuits, lawyer says

| Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Lawyers for dozens of heart patients said there have been no talks to settle 115 lawsuits filed against two former Excela Health doctors and the health system over allegations of unnecessary heart procedures.

“Neither the hospital nor the physicians are discussing settlements,” attorney Mike Rosenzweig said on Monday. “They seem to have a monolithic wall up.”

Rosenzweig, along with attorney Jason Tatzus, represents more than 50 patients who contend that physicians Ehab Morcos and George Bou Samra performed unnecessary procedures to install stents when they practiced at Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg. Stents are tiny mesh tubes placed into an artery to help improve blood flow.

David Johnson, Excela's lawyer, declined to comment about potential settlement talks after a brief court hearing on Monday.

Excela Health sent letters to 141 former stent patients in March 2011 informing them that an investigation revealed they might have undergone medically unnecessary procedures in 2010.

In June 2011, an additional 51 patients received similar letters about stent procedures performed in 2009.

“It would be nice to try to get the people who have been harmed by this whole affair to be made whole, get them some justice. It's a long time in coming,” Rosenzweig said.

During a status conference before Westmoreland County Judge Anthony Marsili, Johnson said 115 lawsuits have been filed.

About 20 lawsuits have been filed in the past month. Lawyers said they expected the number of new filings to decrease.

Meanwhile, the litigation is continuing as both sides continue to depose witnesses, including doctors.

Attorneys are expected to return to court on May 3 for a hearing.

Lawyers for the patients are asking Marsili to give them access to results of an internal investigation Excela commissioned to examine its stent program.

That report led to the hospital's disclosure to patients about potentially unnecessary procedures, according to Rosenzweig.

“The patients should have access to those reports,” Rosenzweig said after the hearing.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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