One of three men who owns a stake in Nason Medical Center claims its parent company is insolvent, that the business is unable to pay outstanding bills in excess of $1.2 million and that its chief executive officer has manipulated accounts to distort their true value.
The allegations are outlined in a lawsuit filed in Charleston County court last month by Fariborz Ghadar, who owns a third of Bankfield Holding Company - a limited liability company established in 2008. Bankfield finances five Nason Medical Centers in the Lowcountry.
Dr. Barron Nason and CEO Bob Hamilton, who also each own one-third of Bankfield, filed a suit against Ghadar in January for attempting to "create financial distress," for making "unreasonable demands" and acting "in an unprofessional, crass and abusive manner to key employees."
In turn, Ghadar filed a countersuit against his partners. He claims that Hamilton repeatedly attempted to misrepresent the value of the company by as much as $300,000 to make it appear more profitable than it actually was. He also said Hamilton fired a former human resources director after she advised the partners that the company was not "properly paying overtime to Bankfield's physician assistants," according to the complaint.
The countersuit claims Hamilton admitted in several emails that he is not qualified to manage Bankfield's financial affairs and that Hamilton agreed that "Nason needed to be bought out of the company."
"It's an internal business dispute that they're working through," said attorney Brian Duffy, who represents Nason and Hamilton. "None of this is a threat to the operations - it's just ironing out issues among the partners."
Ghadar filed a separate lawsuit against Hamilton in federal court on April 16, claiming Hamilton owes him $1.3 million for a loan issued in 2012. Hamilton denied the allegations, had requested a jury trial and filed a countersuit in federal court.
Ghadar's attorney did not return a phone message left Friday.
While the court documents reveal infighting among Bankfield's stakeholders and suggest financial distress, it seems the partners agree on at least one point - the civil case should be sealed from the public. On Tuesday, Ghadar, with the consent of Nason and Hamilton, requested that a judge review the lawsuit in private chambers to "protect legitimate interests and avoid undue harm."
The court has not yet responded to their request. It was filed one day after news broke Monday that the government ordered Nason Medical Center to discontinue CT scans and ultrasounds. All of Nason Medical Center's imaging specialists were fired May 16, a spokeswoman for the urgent care network confirmed Monday.
The company refused to specify which agency mandated that they discontinue these imaging services. Public information directors for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported that those state agencies are not investigating Nason Medical Center for the improper use of CT scans or ultrasounds.
A federal spokesman explained the Privacy Act prohibits Medicare from commenting on specific providers.
Nason Medical Center is not included on the federal government's list of providers that are excluded from participating in the Medicare or Medicaid programs. That database was last updated May 7.
Federal False Claims Act investigations, which include cases involving providers who knowingly order tests or procedures that are not medically necessary, are often sealed from the public.
According to data released by the federal government in April, Medicare paid Dr. Barron Nason $241,000 in 2012.
He ranked 10th for the total amount paid by Medicare of 576 emergency medicine providers in South Carolina that year. This does not include the amount other providers employed by Nason Medical Center were paid by Medicare, or the amount the business earned from treating Medicaid, privately insured or self-pay patients.
On Friday, Nason said he could not answer questions about the lawsuit or about the government order to discontinue imaging services.
"I've been so pleasantly surprised by the support of the community. I think we're busier today than we've been in a long time," Nason said. "If we stay focused on taking care of the patients, it's all going to work out."
Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.