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Hospitals blamed for not reporting physician's surgical errors

A health care facility, like any other Boston employer, is expected to hire qualified, competent employees. A surgical error can be the direct fault of a single physician, but a wider range of defendants may be held accountable for patient injuries.

Three lawsuits say a Southern neurosurgeon employed grossly substandard and dangerous practices. Allegations say patients of the spine doctor suffered excessive blood loss, extreme post-surgical pain, quadriplegia and death after botched surgeries. Colleagues described the doctor as inept and even a killer.

The surgeon was hired by Baylor Regional Medical Center. In late 2011, an assisting surgeon was so alarmed by the doctor's practices that he forced the surgeon to stop an operation. The patient, now a plaintiff, claims the careless surgeon "misplaced" the fusion hardware and made his pain worse.

In February 2012, the physician operated on his roommate, who suffered accident-related spinal problems. The patient later said he and the surgeon used cocaine the night before surgery. The surgeon was suspended briefly, after the fusion surgery left the "friend" a quadriplegic.

The following month, a female patient died in the surgeon's care. An autopsy stated internal bleeding killed the patient. Some Baylor doctors suspected the surgeon's drill opened a blood vessel.

The neurosurgeon left Baylor with an employment letter giving no hint of the alleged wrongdoing. The physician moved to Dallas Medical in July 2012. He was dismissed within a week, after a patient died from a post-surgical stroke and a second patient was partially paralyzed.

The last hospital on the surgeon's resume was University General Hospital, where a patient suffered a severe infection, caused by a surgical sponge left behind in his neck. The neurosurgeon's medical license was suspended in June and revoked in December.

Hospitals that hide mistakes may attempt to preserve reputations and revenue. Health care providers that knowingly disguise incompetence are as guilty of harming patients as bungling doctors.

Source: The Dallas Morning News, "Plano’s Baylor hospital faces hard questions after claims against former neurosurgeon" Doug J. Swanson, Mar. 01, 2014

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