Former CCS Oncology chief deemed 'danger' to patients, stripped of state medical license – Buffalo News

A state panel that investigates cases of physician misconduct has revoked the medical license of Dr. Won Sam Yi, former CEO of CCS Oncology, once one of the region’s largest providers of community cancer care before it declared bankruptcy and closed its doors in 2018.
Dr. Won Sam Yi, former CEO of CCS Oncology, has denied wrongdoing and will appeal a state panel’s decision to revoke his medical license over his treatment of seven cancer patients, six of whom later died.
The former chief of CCS Oncology, once one of the region’s largest providers of cancer care, has been barred from practicing medicine in New York but won a victory when a federal whistleblower’s complaint fizzled out.
The state Board for Professional Medical Conduct this month revoked the medical license of Dr. Won Sam Yi following a lengthy review of the care he provided to seven seriously ill cancer patients, six of whom died.
The state Health Department in 2018 had brought numerous charges of professional misconduct against Yi. Officials accused him of delivering powerful doses of radiation to patients beyond standards of care in such cases.
The board upheld nearly all of the departmental charges and found Yi failed to take responsibility or show contrition for his treatment decisions.
“He is a danger to potential new patients should he be reinstated as a radiation oncologist,” board members wrote on Feb. 4.
However, in newly unsealed court papers, federal and state government lawyers said they would not support claims made in 2015 by a former CCS employee that the practice defrauded taxpayers out of millions of dollars. And Yi’s lawyer in the state disciplinary proceedings said he will appeal the panel’s conclusions.
“It’s one of the more egregiously incorrect decisions I’ve ever seen,” attorney Anthony Scher said.
A radiation oncologist who began practicing medicine in New York in 2006, Yi served as president and CEO of CCS Oncology and led a rapid expansion of the practice, including beyond cancer care, fueled in part by extensive advertising. He bought the company in 2008 and was its sole shareholder.
Yi’s CCS Oncology and CCS Medical practices at one time had 36 physicians serving hundreds of patients at two dozen clinics and offices in Western New York. But CCS had struggled financially since 2016, when Independent Health announced it was removing CCS Oncology from its network, and several vendors and lenders had sued CCS and Yi for nonpayment.
The FBI in March 2018 raided numerous CCS locations, seizing reams of financial and other data as part of an investigation into possible Medicare billing fraud at the practice.
In April 2018, CCS filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing millions of dollars owed to Bank of America and other creditors. Weeks later it shuttered its doors.

The financially troubled CCS Oncology, once one of the region’s largest private cancer practices, will shut down operations next week. CCS Oncology and CCS Medical, its non-oncology branch, began mailing notices of the closing to about 1,000 patients on Thursday, two weeks after the practice filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. That figure includes patients actively receiving treatment and some
The FBI raid came months after The Buffalo News in June 2017 reported the existence of the federal investigation and the whistleblower complaint.
In that civil lawsuit, filed under seal in 2015 in district court here, a former CCS employee argued the practice’s physicians and other staffers engaged in widespread fraud and other misconduct, including billing for more expensive procedures than were actually performed, billing for procedures that never were performed and performing medically unnecessary procedures on patients.
Yi and his attorneys have emphatically denied any wrongdoing.
Following the decision by the U.S. Department of Justice not to intervene, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara in August ordered the complaint, which was filed under the federal False Claims Act, unsealed. The state Attorney General’s Office later made a similar decision not to support the lawsuit.
Barbara Burns, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Buffalo, declined comment on the intervention decision. She also said she couldn’t comment on the existence or status of any federal investigation.
Cortney Hansen, a former radiation therapy technologist with CCS, had filed the lawsuit against the company, alleging CCS had defrauded taxpayers out of $10 million to $15 million. 
“Cortney Hansen is a very principled person. She didn’t do this for any financial benefit,” her attorney, David Harrison, said Wednesday. While Hansen could have seen a financial gain, under the terms of the False Claims Act, if the government recovered any damages from CCS and Yi, Harrison said this wasn’t her primary motivation.
The federal government intervenes in only a small number of False Claims Act complaints, just 25% by one count. Harrison said there could be many reasons why authorities didn’t intervene in Hansen’s complaint – including the fact that CCS shut down operations nearly four years ago while owing millions of dollars to creditors.
Hansen opted to voluntarily withdraw her complaint on Nov. 2. But Harrison said his client feels vindicated by the state board’s decision to revoke Yi’s medical license.
“We’re glad that this result is what it is,” Harrison said, “and we’re happy that he’s not going to be treating patients, at least any time soon.”
The state’s misconduct charges against Yi were made public in December 2018. Hearings, document submissions and deliberations took place over the ensuing months and years.
The state accused Yi of “gross negligence,” “gross incompetence” and other misconduct in treating seven patients between 2009 and 2013 at various CCS locations. The five male and two female patients, identified as Patient A through Patient G, ranged in age from 27 to 72.
Yi, for example, was accused of providing whole-brain radiation therapy to a 43-year-old female patient for about six weeks in 2012 “contrary to medical indications” and without taking into account prior doses of such treatment. The patient died on Dec. 20, 2012.
The Health Department and Yi called their own experts to discuss whether Yi followed, or violated, accepted standards of care for cancer patients.
In the case of the 43-year-old woman, identified as Patient A, the board concluded Yi improperly treated her with a high dose of radiation intended to cure her cancer when, in fact, her disease was at a point it could not be cured. As with other patients, the board concluded, Yi instead should have administered lower, “palliative” doses of radiation intended to address her symptoms and relieve her pain in the final stages of her life.
Ultimately, the state board, for all but one of the patients in question, found Yi guilty of misconduct in his treatment decisions. Yi, they wrote, frequently administered radiation doses without taking into account how much radiation therapy the patients had received previously and without considering the risk of serious complications for them.
Yi can, and will, appeal the board’s decision in state court, said his attorney, who outlined two key points he will raise in his challenge.
First, Scher said, some of the patients were offered a different form of treatment, such as chemotherapy, but rejected it in favor of radiation therapy. Yi felt he should listen to his patients’ desires and not force them to accept therapy they opposed, Scher said.
Second, Scher said “standards of care,” particularly for cancer patients, are not precise guidelines that oncologists must follow to the letter. They are allowed to deviate, in a reasonable way, from such standards, he said, emphasizing Yi’s overall record as a doctor.
“Dr. Yi has treated over 10,000 patients in his career,” Scher said. “These handful of cases don’t represent the thousands of success stories that he’s had.”
In other legal cases, the bankruptcy proceedings involving CCS Oncology, CCS Medical and related entities all closed between 2019 and 2021. There are two pending cases in U.S. Bankruptcy Court directly involving Yi.
Also, the U.S. Labor Department last year accused Yi and CCS of withholding $101,000 between January and April 2018 from employees’ paychecks but failing, as required, to put that money into their 401K retirement plans. Yi and CCS in December settled the case by agreeing to pay $35,000 over the next four years.
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I report on development, government, crime and schools in the northern Erie County suburbs. I grew up in the Town of Tonawanda and worked at the Post-Standard in Syracuse before joining The News in 2001. Email: swatson@buffnews.com
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A state panel that investigates cases of physician misconduct has revoked the medical license of Dr. Won Sam Yi, former CEO of CCS Oncology, once one of the region’s largest providers of community cancer care before it declared bankruptcy and closed its doors in 2018.
Dr. Won Sam Yi, former CEO of CCS Oncology, has denied wrongdoing and will appeal a state panel’s decision to revoke his medical license over his treatment of seven cancer patients, six of whom later died.
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