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This week, The Enterprise is running a news story about Lebanon Medical Solutions.
Working on this story has been an unusual experience for me as a reporter. Usually, when I do a story about a new business, the owners want people to know where they are and what services they are offering to the community.
Even when we aren't doing a story per se, we often run business briefs when a new business opens. More often than not, it is the business owner who contacts the newspaper when the business opens - again, because they want the community to know where their business is located and what it's doing.
With Lebanon Medical Solutions, no one I contacted who was involved in the business acted like they wanted to talk.
Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge that Jimmy Higdon III, the son Jimmy and Jane Higdon, had done some reporting of his own about Lebanon Medical Solutions on his blog, marioncountyline.com. (If you want to read what he wrote, the specific link is http://www.marioncountyline.com/2010/08/lebanon-gets-oxyed.html.)
I did read his entry. I also read news stories from other places about pain clinics. But I also wanted to do my own research and see if I turned up similar information. What I was able to find through phone calls, a personal visit to the clinic, public records, court records and an internet search was interesting, to say the least.
Last week, I had time to begin researching the business that bills itself as "specializing in pain management." You may not have been aware that that's how Lebanon Medical Solutions described itself since its ads didn't appear in our paper or in newspapers in any of the counties that border Marion County. They don't even have a website, or if they do, it didn't show up when I did an Internet search for "Lebanon Medical Solutions".
They did advertise in newspapers east of Lexington that are more than two hours away, however. They also had two visitors Thursday who drove more than an hour and 15 minutes to be here, based on the counties listed on their license plates.
I paid a visit to the pain clinic myself Thursday. I introduced myself and asked an employee if I could talk to someone about the business. She told me she could schedule an appointment for next Wednesday (which would be today). She took my contact information and left.
A few hours later, I learned that someone had just spoken with one of the business owners at the business. Sensing a possible window of opportunity, I called back, and sure enough, Norma Thomas, one of the owners, answered the phone. She reminded me that the employee had said I could schedule an appointment for Wednesday. I informed her that I did not yet have a time for our appointment. She said she would have to check her schedule.
Before we got off the phone I was able to learn one important piece of information, however. She told me that Dr. Najam Azmat works at Lebanon Medical Solutions. Once I had that confirmed by the owner, I gave Dr. Azmat a call. I must admit I was a little surprised when he answered the phone. He also confirmed that he worked at the pain clinic when it is open, but he did not want to say anything else until after I spoke to Thomas.
Dr. Azmat seems to have some ongoing issues of his own, including accusations of incompetence as a surgeon and accusations of involvement in Medicare and Medicaid fraud. At least, that's what the accusations are in the federal lawsuit filed in Georgia in which he is named as a defendant.
Editor's note: That lawsuit is still pending and any accusations contained therein should only be considered that, accusations, at this time.
The visitors to the clinic - I'm not sure if I should refer to them as patients - did not want to talk, either. I was curious why they had driven from Montgomery and Bourbon counties to be here.
Much of this matches Higdon's reporting on his blog, but I also think I found a few things that complimented his research, things that just seem odd to me.
For instance, the articles of incorporation for Lebanon Medical Solutions listed a vacant house as the primary business office. The business license information filed with the City of Lebanon also listed that house, and the primary contact phone number, supposedly for Thomas, was a wrong number, according to the person who answered the phone when I called.
And then there was another owner, Tracy Bias, who is connected to an Ohio pain clinic that was raided in April of this year by the FBI, the DEA, local law enforcement from Ohio and Kentucky authorities. Bias has had his own run-ins with the law, at least some of which were drug-related.
There are still many unanswered questions about Lebanon Medical Solutions. I know I have some, and I suspect that I'm not alone.