CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Misleading COVID testing, surprise bills and unwanted prescriptions are just some of the complaints coming from frustrated patients who say no one is listening.
Our 19 news investigation into the MedCare Center in Parma Heights began last month when we discovered multiple complaints filed with the county against the doctor’s office.
Now, we’ve discovered new complaints and spoken to patients, showing the issues at the clinic go far beyond coronavirus testing. Yet, amid mounting allegations, it’s unclear whether any official investigation is underway.
A woman who didn’t want to be identified said she went to the MedCare Center in Parma Heights last October with cold symptoms.
She said, “I couldn’t get in to my doctor this day, and I wasn’t feeling good. So, I went to [MedCare] mostly to get the COVID test. That’s what I went there for.”
She says she was told her test came back negative. But, she’s one of many who later filed a complaint with the county, after realizing the she received an antibody test-- not the rapid covid test she thought was advertised outside and online.
“I could have had [COVID], I don’t know, and that’s the scary part,” she said.
Since our investigation began, MedCare changed it’s website to explain what it offers is a COVID antibody test.
But, their same signs are still outside and community concerns about what’s really going on inside remain.
“I walked out of there with seven prescriptions,” the patient we talked to said.
She says the prescriptions were for weight loss and an ear infection. She says her primary care doctor told her not to have most of them filled.
“She said you don’t need any of that. It will do more harm than good,” the patient said.
She says she’d followed up with her primary care doctor in the weeks after coming here because she was scared. She says she kept getting letters in the mail from MedCare after seeing Doctor Carmen Popa.
The letters say her blood tests, plural, came back abnormal. Tests, she says she didn’t ever ask Doctor Popa to run.
Come to find out, she says her insurance paid MedCare for several of them no questions asked, with one exception.
“One of the tests she had run, my insurance kicked out,” the patient said. “It was one-hundred and some dollars for the test, and they put on there that it wasn’t medically necessary.”
She says her primary care doctor re-ran her bloodwork and found nothing alarming.
19 Investigates reached out to Medcare about the patient’s experience by email, Facebook and by phone. But, we have not gotten a reply.
Nor has the patient heard from the county and state officials she contacted.
“I was shocked at the authorities,” she said. “Some of them didn’t even want to hear what I had to say, and a couple of them listened to my story and said ‘I can’t help you.’”
But why? She’s one of many voicing concerns about the clinic
Who’s job is it to monitor the facility? Is anyone dealing with the complaints coming in?
“I’m chasing my tail at that point,” the patient said.
Doing an interview with us was not an easy decision for the patient, but she wondered, if somebody had received her complaint, wouldn’t something have changed at MedCare by now?
“Somebody needs to be made aware of what’s going on over there to stop it,” she said.
19 Investigates also talked to several nurses who were formerly employed at the clinic.
Two of the nurses were assigned by their medschools to do a rotation here at the MedCare Center last fall. Both made the same allegations, and one of them filed multiple complaints with authorities.
“I saw things happening there that were uncomfortable to me,” that nurse told us.
She did not want to be identified either, because she’s a registered nurse, who’s in school to be a nurse practitioner.
She came to 19 News after seeing our last story about complaints filed against the MedCare Center in Parma Heights.
“Me, being hands on in there quite a bit, I thought maybe I could give more insight into the situation,” she said.
She says her experience here working under Dr. Popa was not at all what she’d expected.
“When my rotation came up, that’s just where I was placed,” she said.
She says she ended up filing complaints with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, the nursing board and the medical board.
“There are multiple unlicensed personnel there starting IVs, administering oxygen, counting narcotics. There are things anyone who is licensed knows that those are licensed activities,” she said.
It’s now been months since she filed the complaints in October.
One of the allegations in her complaint is that MedCare is billing for types of COVID tests that it does not even offer.
Two other former Medcare nurses we talked to echo her concerns, saying management told employees to give out inaccurate information about the center’s COVID tests.
“We take an oath to not harm,” she said.
The office recently put a sign out front advertising open positions.
“In the 8 or 9 weeks I was there, I would say there were about three resignations,” the one nurse told us.
We told the nurse about the prescriptions the patient we talked to said she did not ask for.
The nurse then said, “I witnessed that type of thing multiple times with multiple patients.”
So why do problems here persist months after these women and more came forward?
Our investigation took us in circle, hopping from one agency to another, essentially all saying “that’s not my job.”
No one would confirm to us that an active investigation of any sort is underway.
The Cuyahoga County Board of Health says it forwarded some complaints to the state.
The Ohio Department of Health says it’s also gotten additional calls complaining about this office. However, the state says it isn’t responsible for checking them out, because Medicare is a clinical laboratory that falls under a department of the CDC. We went to the CDC and haven’t heard back.
We also contacted the state medical board, but the medical board said it “does not license healthcare entities.” It can investigate doctors themselves. The Board would not confirm whether it’s looking at Dr. Popa.
Laura L. Mills, of Mills, Mills, Fiely & Lucas, represents Dr. Popa and provided the following statement:
“Dr. Popa is not facing any medical complaints from the board and Medcare has helped so many thousands of people over 18 years in the community. Medcare cannot defend itself with the alleged patient through social media as her name is not provided and her health cannot be discussed over social media. The prior employee was fired and is a disgruntled employee. Dr. Popa or Medcare does not own the lab so the clinic does not receive a monetary benefit from lab work being done. The clinic provides hours of 8am-9pm during the week and 9am-9pm to help patients seek care when they need it most during this pandemic. The COVID antigen test is Rapid. Dr. Popa does not wish to have her clinic and its care smeared with fallacies and will defend any care given to a patient with the appropriate board and not through Facebook reporting.”