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Sister of dead Sacred Heart Hospital patient: ‘I think they killed him’

Naaman Durham deceased Sacred Heart patient. | Provided Photo

Naaman Durham, deceased Sacred Heart patient. | Provided Photo

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Updated: May 19, 2013 7:51AM

Naaman Durham was a sometimes angry drunk who lived alone in an Englewood nursing home with his sozzled liver and little hope of getting back his old job as an exterminator.

But the divorced father-of-four, 48, had previously survived multiple stays at the nearby hospital, Holy Cross.

So his devoted sister, Mayola Nash, figured he’d pull through again when he was bizarrely taken by ambulance 17 miles away to Sacred Heart Hospital on Nov. 2 last year.

Instead, Durham was dead within a month.

And this week, Nash thinks she found out why.

“I think they killed him,” Nash said Wednesday, a day after federal prosecutors alleged Sacred Heart owner Edward Novak oversaw a ghoulish Medicare scam that saw vulnerable patients undergo surgery for no reason.

The federal search warrant affidavit didn’t name five tracheotomy patients who died within two weeks of going under the knife of an unnamed surgeon who allegedly routinely operated unnecessarily on patients.

But the Illinois Department of Public Health on Wednesday released records from its March probe into alleged wrongdoing at the West Side hospital. The records identify a 48-year-old man who died Dec. 2 as one of the patients who received a questionable tracheotomy on Nov. 14; records held by Cook County Clerk David Orr show that could only have been Durham.

“It makes sense to me,” said Nash, who says the feds’ account of how Sacred Heart doctors deliberately over-medicated patients so that they couldn’t breathe, then intubated and operated on them so that they could squeeze every drop of government cash out of them fits with what she saw happen to her brother.

“I kept asking the doctors why he was getting all these treatments, but nobody could give me a straight answer,” she said.

Although Novak has so far only been charged with running a kickback scheme and not with the unnecessary surgery scam, one of the four doctors accused of taking Novak’s cash in return for referrals was Durham’s doctor.

Dr. Venkateswara Kuchipudi — allegedly known as the “King of Nursing Homes” — sent Durham to Sacred Heart, instead of Holy Cross, records show.

Nash said her family is considering hiring a lawyer to sue the hospital.

“I think its horrible,” she said. “Once he died, we couldn’t get any information, no nothing. It was like he didn’t exist.”

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