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Doctor's lawsuit alleges that a hospital endangered patients

A doctor filed a lawsuit against Upstate University Hospital alleging that he was retaliated against for speaking out against dangerous medical practices, fraud, and other unethical activities. Dr. James Holsapple filed the lawsuit in federal court alleging that the hospital committed medical malpractice by placing profit before the wellbeing of its patients.

An example of the dangerous practices alleged in the lawsuit is the hospital's practice of allowing one physician to oversee complex spinal surgery on two patients in different operating rooms at the same time. Dr. Holsapple, a neurosurgeon, also alleged that the Syracuse teaching hospital's employees created fake medical documents and committed Medicare and Medicaid fraud by submitting fraudulent bills.

Dr. Holsapple said that he moved from Upstate Hospital to Boston Medical center after the working environment at Upstate hospital became intolerable.

Upstate Hospital spokesman Darryl Geddes called Dr. Holsapple's charges "baseless" and said that the hospital would vigorously defend against the lawsuit.

The neurosurgeon said that his problems at Upstate Hospital began when he objected to the proposed plan for a single neurosurgeon to supervise spine surgeries in separate operating rooms at the same time. Dr. Holsapple said that the plan was too risky to patient health and that the death rate following spine surgery at the Upstate Hospital was five times higher than normal.

Dr. Holsapple also alleged that a supervising surgeon allowed a resident doctor to complete a spinal surgery despite the resident doctor's lack of qualifications to complete the operation. The patient allegedly suffered complications from the surgery.

A recent New York Health Department investigation report said that Upstate Hospital did not provide spine surgeries in a way that insured the "protection of the health, safety and rights of patients."

The Health Department launched its investigation into the hospital in response to a complaint by a senior faculty neurosurgeon but investigators could not find sufficient evidence to support professional misconduct charges.

Source: Post-Standard, "Doctor's lawsuit says Upstate forced him out for blowing the whistle on hospital problems," James T. Mulder, 2/20/11

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