Municipal officials are paying a doctor, who briefly ran coronavirus testing sites in Paterson, $134,100 for his services.
Doctor Steve Conte of Vestibular Diagnostics charged $225 per patient, officials revealed on Thursday night. Consultation for each patient cost $50. Lab fee for each test was $175, a charge 75 percent higher than what is set by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
“This is mismanagement,” said councilman Al Abdelaziz speaking of the exorbitant fees. Last month, at a public meeting, no one from mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration could explain who vetted the parade of firms and doctors that handled testing in Paterson.
“We’ve made many mistakes and we saw the outcome,” said councilman Flavio Rivera. He said the administration failed to do its “due diligence.”
Sayegh’s chief of staff Della Fischer hired Sunrise Diagnostic of Irvington at the recommendation of councilman Michael Jackson. Officials described the firm’s running of four test sites as a “disaster.” Hundreds of people waited weeks to receive their results from the sites managed by Sunrise.
Sayegh cut ties with Sunrise the next day. He needed a new firm to come in and run the sites. Officials brought on Conte to take over the test sites.
“The doctor did a great job, performed to the highest level,” said business administrator Kathleen Long on Thursday. “They stepped in when we faced challenges with another firm.”
Some have complained of severe delays in receiving their test results from all the firms hired – including Conte’s — by the city.
“People are still waiting for results,” added councilman Luis Velez. “Who dropped the ball?”
When council president Maritza Davila asked if every person tested by Vestibular Diagnostics, spelled Vestibula Diagnostics in city documents, have received their results, Long said, “Yes.” She then said she “believes” every person tested has received their results.
“I don’t know that exactly,” said Long. She gave the three contradictory answers in under 15 seconds before referring the question to the fire chief.
Fire chief Brian McDermott said results for everyone tested by Conte has been reported. He said the doctor was billing insurance, but the testing sites saw a big influx of uninsured residents.
Municipal officials cut ties with Conte’s firm because he did not want to bill the federal government through the Cares Act for reimbursement.
Richard Afanonja of FastMed Urgent Care who agreed to bill the federal government for tests has taken over the city’s testing sites.
Residents continue to complain about delayed test results. One man, who was tested at a site run by FastMed, said he received his results on June 5. He was tested on May 28.
Public health officials and experts have said slow reporting of test results impede contact tracing and hinder the fight against the virus.
Paterson, with has 6,435 infections and 302 deaths, has the biggest virus outbreak in Passaic County.
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