Doctor is formally accused
The state's medical board says the Redding cardiologist is guilty of multiple transgressions.
By Dorsey Griffith -- Bee Medical Writer - (Published June 5, 2003)
One of two Redding doctors under federal investigation for allegedly performing and billing for unnecessary heart procedures on Wednesday was formally accused by
the Medical Board of California of violating state law.
The 10-page document accuses Dr. Chae Hyun Moon of gross negligence, incompetence, dishonest or corrupt acts and false or fraudulent claims related to his
cardiology practice at Redding Medical Center.
The accusation could result in a suspension or revocation of Moon's medical license, pending a future medical board hearing before an administrative law judge --
during which Moon is expected to assert his innocence.
"Dr. Moon disputes everything in this pleading, and we will fight it in the appropriate forum," said Matthew Jacobs, one of Moon's attorneys.
The latest action against Moon is the first major step taken by a government agency since the medical board last November asked a Shasta Superior Court judge to
temporarily suspend the medical licenses of Moon and his colleague, heart surgeon Fidel Realyvasquez, Jr.
The board failed to persuade the court the doctors posed a danger to the community's health. However, since then both have stopped practicing medicine for reasons
related to the federal investigation, which came to light on Oct. 30 when the FBI seized thousands of records from their offices and storage lockers.
Before the raid, the two doctors were responsible for some of the highest rates of heart procedures in the state. Redding Medical Center's own Web site once stated
that the hospital performed about 200 heart catheterizations every month, and 700 open-heart surgeries a year.
The federal investigation is continuing, according to spokespeople for the FBI and U.S. attorney offices in Sacramento. Although neither doctor has been charged with
a crime, the allegations alone have had a dramatic effect in recent months:
* Stock prices for Tenet Healthcare Corp., which owns Redding Medical Center, have tumbled.
* Malpractice carriers have refused to insure Moon, forcing him to discontinue his practice.
* Confronted with hundreds of civil lawsuits filed by former patients, Realyvasquez has temporarily suspended his practice.
* And Redding Medical Center, faced with huge drops in hospital admissions and revenues, has laid off 150 staffers and shut down its cardiac surgery program
The medical board's case against Moon relies heavily on the testimony of the Rev. John Corapi, a Catholic priest, who told investigators that Moon performed
numerous diagnostic tests on him, then recommended a triple bypass operation.
Before agreeing to undergo the procedure, Corapi sought other specialists' opinions at a Las Vegas hospital. On reviewing the results of several tests, none saw
sufficient evidence of heart disease to warrant surgery.
The board's accusation states that Moon was grossly negligent for conducting more than one unnecessary and invasive diagnostic cardiac procedure on Corapi.
"The degree and extent of coronary disease in this patient did not require any form of intervention," the accusation concludes.
The accusation alleges negligence and incompetence, too, stating that Moon misinterpreted Corapi's test results. Corapi's claims formed the backbone of the FBI's
lengthy affidavit, which led to the Oct. 30 raid.
The medical board accusation contains new allegations as well, stating that Moon violated state law when he allegedly instructed two patients with cardiac symptoms
to specifically complain of "chest pain," so that Medi-Cal, the state's insurance program for the poor and disabled, would cover the cost of any procedures.
Jacobs, Moon's attorney, characterized the medical board's complaint as a retreat from the "sweeping allegations it made at the start of its case.
Inclusion of the Medi-Cal fraud claims "just demonstrates the board's failure to substantiate its original charges," Jacobs said.
In response, Ron Joseph, the medical board's executive director, said the board is not done investigating Moon.
"This was a very complex, voluminous matter," he said. "What we have here are three patient cases which the attorney general's office feels rise to the level of
violating the state Medical Practices Act. "
Joseph said that although Realyvasquez was not included in Wednesday's accusation, the board has not completed its investigation into him either.
"In the popular view, the doctors have been tied together, but we are charged with looking at the medical practice of the individual parties involved," he said.
Sacramento attorney Malcolm Segal, who represents Realyvasquez, said that since suspending his medical practice, Realyvasquez has attended medical conferences
and worked with attorneys on his defense against related civil lawsuits filed against him. He said the surgeon hopes to return to work as soon as he can, possibly at
"We are seeing if there is a way of resolving his contractual obligations in way that would enable him to practice the medicine at which he is so extraordinarily
successful," Segal said.
Moon, meanwhile, is enjoying playing lots of golf, his lawyer said.
About the Writer
The Bee's Dorsey Griffith can be reached at (916) 321-1089 or email@example.com