By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - Colorado has leveled a $3.2 million fine against a defunct medical imaging company accused of performing X-rays and other scans without doctor supervision or referrals, authorities said on Monday.
The penalty imposed on Heart Check America, which operated clinics in several states, is the largest ever imposed by the state's radiation regulators, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in a written statement.
It cited Heart Check for nine violations of Colorado regulations involving radiation controls.
In addition to the lack of physician oversight and referrals, the company kept inadequate records and failed to properly train its employees and monitor their exposure to radiation, the department said.
Heart Check shuttered its Denver office in April and the company web site has been dismantled. The equipment left behind will be auctioned off later this month to settle a tax bill with the City and County of Denver, Joyce Goldsboro, an X-ray certification inspector for the state, told Reuters.
The company has 30 days to respond or appeal the fine. If they fail to comply, unspecified "other action" will be taken by the state to collect the money, Goldsboro said.
Heart Check also operated clinics in Washington, D.C., Illinois, South Carolina, New York and California.
On numerous consumer web sites, patients have complained that the company used high-pressure sales techniques to persuade them to purchase thousands of dollars worth of scans, but never gave them a diagnosis.
The Illinois Attorney General's Office's consumer fraud division sued Heart Check in June for enticing consumers with a free initial screen then pressuring them to pay thousands of dollars for 10-year screening packages.
Brian Vamvakias, an X-ray certification official for Colorado, said X-rays were valuable diagnostic tools when performed under proper medical protocols, which Heart Check failed to do.
"But patients should submit to X-ray and CT exams on the recommendation of their doctor, not on the advice of a salesman," Vamvakias said