10/10/2014 01:28 EDT | Updated 12/10/2014 05:59 EST

Podiatrist Abdel Hefnawi ordered to pay $1.17M for fake surgeries

A Lower Mainland podiatrist has shuttered his practice after being ordered to repay more than a million dollars after an audit found he charged for surgeries he never performed.

Dr. Abdel Hefnawi practiced podiatric surgery in Richmond, Surrey and Chilliwack from 1996 until some time last year when his practice attracted a Medical Services Plan audit.

According to the Ministry of Health, he was charging for surgeries he did not perform to the tune of $890,000 over a four year period.

The Chair of B.C.'s College of Podiatric Surgeons David Brooks says the amount of the billing may have caught the ministry's attention.

"That's pretty unusual. I think that's what triggered the interest of the billing integrity branch," said Brooks.

Hefnawi was ordered to repay the entire amount by the Medical Services Commission, plus about $280,000 in interest, for a total of $1.17 million, making the order one of the largest in the Billing Integrity Program's history.

But the commission may have a hard time collecting, because Hefnawi's professional registration was cancelled for lack of payment and the college found his offices closed.

 "As far as we know, he's just gone," said Brooks, who has met Dr. Hefnawi

"Speaking personally, it has come out of the blue. I'm quite shocked by the whole thing. He's a family man. I didn't know him well, but I think it's kind of shocked everybody."

Hefnawi could not be reached for comment.

Any patients with concerns are asked to contact the college, said Brooks

"It's very important to us because, of course, we're accountable to the public. We have to protect the public interest and Dr. Hefnawi, who is actually a former registrant now, if there's an issue here, we have to investigate it."

Read the order against Dr. Abdel Hefnawi. On mobile? Click here