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Durham doctor's tenure as health director questioned after scandal
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Durham doctor's tenure as health director questioned after scandal

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RALEIGH — Durham County is investigating a physician’s tenure as the county’s public health medical director following a 20-count federal indictment accusing her of committing Medicare fraud at her private practice.

From Dec. 19, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2021, Dr. Anita Jackson served as medical and laboratory director at the Durham County Public Health Department. She oversaw all clinical functions of the department with a focus on the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jackson was indicted last week and charged by federal prosecutors with billing Medicare roughly $46 million for medical services at Greater Carolina Ear, Nose and Throat through fraudulent means, the indictment in federal court alleges. The practice generated at least $5.4 million from the services, which were sinus treatments.

The charges accuse her of identity theft, mail fraud, deceiving regulators and patients as well as falsifying medical documents from 2014 through 2018 at her practices in Raleigh, Lumberton and Rockingham.

The indictment further alleges Jackson netted hundreds of thousands of dollars by reusing balloon devices inserted into patient’s noses that came into contact with mucus and other bodily secretions, despite the devices being authorized for single-use only.

Durham County officials only learned of the indictment when they read about it in the newspaper.

The health department transitioned from having its medical director as a contracted position to a permanent full-time job.

Jackson was paid a total of $540,982.84 over three consecutive contract periods for her work, according to the county. Her contract work did not include any financial transactions of behalf of the health department.

As medical and laboratory director, Jackson described herself on her LinkedIn profile as playing “an integral role” in the county’s pandemic response with expertise on COVID-19 testing in historically marginalized populations.

Jackson, who has received degrees from the University of Illinois and Harvard, has worked as an otolaryngologist — or doctor specializing in the medical and surgical care of the ears, nose and throat — for over 20 years.

Efforts to reach Jackson or her attorney by phone. A receptionist at Greater Carolina Ear, Nose and Throat who picked up the phone hung up at first and then declined to connect The News & Observer to Jackson in a second call.

Her attorney told a local media outlet that the charges were “bogus” and “an evil prosecutorial indictment.”

Jackson worked at UNC-Chapel Hill as a research professor at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy from May 2017 to July 2019, a university spokesperson said. The university would not say whether Jackson left the faculty voluntarily or not.

Her tenure as faculty member overlaps with the period investigated by federal prosecutors at her practice. The university has not yet said when it learned of the federal accusations against Jackson.

In 2005, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina sued Jackson for allegedly overcharging the insurer millions of dollars through fraud. Jackson countersued, and the initial case was settled out of court in 2009.

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