NJ Board of Medical Examiners Finally Orders 7 NJ Abortion clinics operating illegally to be sold

 

Troubled New Jersey abortion clinics to be sold

by Marie McCullough, Updated: April 11, 2019 – 3:18 PM

MARIE MCCULLOUGH/STAFF

The 82-year-old, physically and mentally impaired physician who has headed a chain of abortion clinics in New Jersey has agreed to sell the facilities as part of the revocation of his medical license.

Vikram Kaji lost his license in January when an administrative judge declared him incompetent to practice medicine because of his stroke-related disabilities.

Kaji’s agreement with the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners, issued as a consent order Wednesday, also may enable regulators to remove the founder of the seven clinics, Steven C. Brigham, 62.

More than four years ago, the board ordered Brigham to divest his interests in the clinics when it took away his medical license — the last of six he once held — for illegally performing dangerous late-term abortions. Instead, Brigham transferred ownership for no money to medical director Kaji, who then hired Brigham to manage the clinics.

The state attorney general alleged the transfer was a sham designed to keep Brigham in control and profiting from the business.

Kaji’s agreement requires that he sell the clinics to a licensed physician within 60 days, then submit to the board “copies of the contract of sale and any management contract.”

Joseph Gorrell, the lawyer representing Kaji and Brigham, declined to comment.

The seven New Jersey clinics are part of Brigham’s multistate, Voorhees-based abortion network, advertised as American Women’s Services.

Public records and media reports going back to the early 1990s — when Brigham launched his abortion practice in Wyomissing, Pa. — have documented his history of trouble with regulators, tax collectors, landlords, creditors, and criminal prosecutors in Maryland.

He has testified that he is in financial straits. He owed almost $500,000 to the Internal Revenue Service for not paying employee taxes when he lost his New Jersey license. He has yet to pay any of the $561,000 in penalties and prosecution costs that the state imposed in connection with the revocation of his medical license.

Updated: April 11, 2019 – 3:18 PM

Marie McCullough @repopter |mmccullough@phillynews.com

 

NJ Abortion Clinic Dr Found Incompetent. What Happens to the Troubled Clinics?

A judge has recommended yanking the medical license of Vikram Kaji, the 82-year-old, stroke-impaired director of a chain of abortion clinics in New Jersey, concluding he is not competent to practice medicine.

But the ruling says nothing about the implications for those clinics, which the state attorney general alleges were illegally transferred to Kaji by discredited abortion provider Steven C. Brigham.

Brigham, 62, whose record of botched procedures goes back decades in multiple states, lost his New Jersey medical license more than four years ago and was ordered to sell his clinics there, which are part of his multistate, Voorhees-based abortion network, advertised as American Women’s Services.

The attorney general has alleged that Brigham sought to keep controlling and profiting from the clinics by transferring ownership, for no money, to Kaji, a Mumbai-trained obstetrician-gynecologist who was disciplined in the mid-1990s for sexually abusing patients. Hearings were ordered three years ago to sort out whether Kaji was in effect Brigham’s puppet.

The state’s Board of Medical Examiners, which licenses physicians, has 45 days to adopt, change, or reject the ruling, or it automatically goes into effect.

The law firm representing Kaji and Brigham did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokesperson said the Attorney General’s Office — which has said the state would “address the matter of ownership” after Kaji’s competency case was concluded — had no comment.

It was Brigham’s unlicensed practice of medicine at a late-term, cash-only abortion clinic that he secretly set up in Elkton, Md., that led to the revocation of his New Jersey license, the last of six that he lost, let lapse, or gave up.

But lack of licensure has not necessarily been a barrier to Brigham’s business because most states allow doctors to own medical practices even if they are not licensed. In Pennsylvania, for example, Brigham relinquished his license in 1992, yet owned clinics until 2010, when his persistent flouting of health and safety laws led regulators to ban him. It took them two more years to actually shut him down because he transferred ownership to his mother in Ohio.

American Women’s Services’ website now lists 15 clinics in three states, but several are closed. The site does not list a clinic in Florida and another in Washington, D.C., that records and media reports tie to Brigham.

At Kaji’s competency hearing in September, the New Jersey network — which Brigham has a contract to manage — was variously described as seven or nine clinics. Kaji said he traveled to seven, but could not name all the locations. Other employees said clinics are in Elizabeth, Voorhees, Woodbridge, Phillipsburg, Galloway, Hamilton, Englewood, Bridgewater, and Livingston. Neither Bridgewater nor Livingston is listed on the American Women’s Services’ website — but it does list “now closed” offices in Toms River and Paramus.

Although the Englewood clinic is open, it filed for bankruptcy protection in May 2017.

Brigham has yet to pay any of the $561,000 in penalties and prosecution costs that New Jersey imposed following his 2014 license revocation, according to the Attorney General’s Office. At that time, Brigham owed almost $500,000 to the IRS for not paying employee taxes.

Brigham hired Kaji in the mid-1990s while the ob-gyn’s license was restricted in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for improprieties including having sex with a patient in his office and improperly prescribing controlled substances for her.

Over the last five years, regulators have scrutinized Kaji’s medical performance and required him to undergo neurological evaluations in response to complaints. In 2017, he agreed to stop practicing medicine pending the competency hearing.

Betancourt wrote that he found Kaji “slow to answer and at times unsure” of his own medical history.

Both supporters and opponents of abortion rights reacted the same way to the ruling.

“We hope the decision will bring Mr. Brigham’s charade one step closer to being shut down permanently,” emailed the Very Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, interim CEO and president of the National Abortion Federation. “Brigham is a rogue doctor who operates outside recognized standards for quality abortion care.”

“The Brigham/Kaji charade has gone on long enough,” emailed Marie Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life. New Jersey authorities “need to immediately shut down Brigham’s clinics.”