October 20, 2017
By JAY GREENE
Yasser Awaad, M.D., the pediatric neurologist formerly associated with Oakwood Hospital and Medical Center in Dearborn and facing multiple medical malpractice lawsuits, has left employment at Beaumont Health, has left the country and returned to Egypt, according to Brian McKeen, an attorney with McKeen and Associates, who is representing dozens of children in the lawsuits.
Awaad is accused in class action and individual lawsuits of falsely diagnosing epilepsy in hundreds of children in Southeast Michigan in the mid-2000s. Attorneys for Awaad and Oakwood have denied all allegations against the Egyptian-born doctor and have promised a vigorous defense against the lawsuits, Crain’s previously reported in a story last November.
While Awaad continues to deny the accusations, McKeen contends Awaad was more concerned with billing than providing medically appropriate care to children.
McKeen told Crain’s the lawsuits are ongoing. “Oakwood and Awaad continue to refuse to accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions, so no settlement discussed yet,” he said.
In a statement, Beaumont said Awaad’s contract expired and was not renewed. Beaumont had no further information on his whereabouts or why he was rehired in 2015 after spending eight years outside of the U.S.
Awaad could not be contacted for comment for this story. His attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
During a two-day deposition on Sept. 13 and 19, Awaad testified he has left employment of Beaumont Health, which acquired Oakwood in 2014. He has recently left for his home country of Egypt.
In a statement to Crain’s, McKeen said: “During these sessions, we discovered Beaumont Health System has terminated his contract and he has been unsuccessful obtaining employment in the United States despite using physician recruiter services.”
“He indicated he planned to travel to Egypt to obtain work. He has since done so. We are asking the court to have him return to the United States for further deposition testimony as it necessary to delve more deeply into the reasons why his contract with Beaumont was terminated.”
In his deposition that Crain’s reviewed, Awaad testified he had a two-year contract for $260,000 annually with Beaumont that ran from Sept. 5, 2015 and ended Sept. 5, 2017.
Awaad said in deposition testimony that he received a letter from Beaumont in June notifying him of a 90-day notice of non-renewal of his contract. But the contract, said McKeen, gave Beaumont the option of keeping him for another two years, in one-year increments. It also had termination for cause and termination for non-cause provisions in his contract that governed what would happen at the end of the two-year contract period and in each of the possible one-year extensions, McKeen said.
McKeen said he believes Beaumont terminated Awaad’s contract with cause, because he is not getting severance pay. His contract required Beaumont to pay a severance if Awaad was terminated without cause, McKeen said.
Awaad testified that he did not voluntarily resign and is receiving no severance payments from Beaumont. He said his contract expired; Beaumont said the same.
McKeen asked Awaad multiple times in this deposition and in a previous deposition to bring a copy of the Beaumont non-renewal of contract letter. Awaad said he forgot to bring and would email it to McKeen when he got home, because it was on his computer. McKeen’s office told Crain’s they never received the Beaumont letter and it is one item they need to review to fully understand the terms of his departure in September.
In his deposition, Awaad also confirmed Beaumont is aware of an ongoing investigation of him by the Michigan Bureau of Health Care. The investigation, which stretches back several years, is related to allegations by 21 former clients who say they were misdiagnosed, McKeen said. Until there is an active complaint filed, the state does not comment on pending investigations.
The more than 1,000-page deposition contains much information on how Awaad diagnosed, tested and treated children. In several answers, he maintained he performed correct medicine and did nothing wrong.
McKeen said he learned from Awaad that he would tell parents there was a suspicion of epilepsy in their child. McKeen said the criteria Awaad used was suspect. For example, if a child had headaches, Awaad would claim suspected epilepsy and order an EEG, he said.
Awaad also ordered unnecessary additional EEGs routinely and regularly overbilled using codes for EEGs lasting for more than an hour, McKeen said. Most EEGs are for shorter durations. An EEG tests for abnormal brain activity that is displayed by electrical brain wave patterns.
Awaad leaves, returns to Michigan
Back in 2007, after parents and lawyers started asking questions about Awaad’s practice, he left Michigan for Egypt and Saudi Arabia. For reasons still not entirely clear, Awaad returned to Michigan sometime in 2014, when he was first hired back by Oakwood Sept. 8, 2014, at a salary of $100,000 per year. The merger with Beaumont was being negotiated and finalized during this time.
In depositions, Awaad said that his sole task with Oakwood was to take training courses in EEG reading, which had been required under probation to remove restrictions from his state medical license. Then he was then hired by Beaumont in Sept. 5, 2015, as a consultant on curriculum and education. He said he was not seeing patients.
Beaumont has declined to fully explain why it rehired Awaad to Crain’s or to McKeen, who is asking that Awaad return to Detroit for further depositions on his employment with Beaumont.
This article was written for Crain’s Detroit Business and can be found here.