Was your surgeon with you the entire time of your operation? Maybe not.

It is called “concurrent surgery” or “double-booking.” One surgeon schedules two surgeries (for two different patients) in two different operating rooms at the same time.

Here is how it works.  Let’s say two of  Dr. John Smith’s patients are scheduled for hip replacement surgery next Wednesday, both procedures starting at 7:30AM.  Both patients show up at the hospital around 6:00 and undergo preparations for surgery (by the way neither patient knows that Dr. Smith has double-booked their surgery with another surgery). Patient number 1 is taken to Operating Room number 5 and Patient number 2 is taken to Operating Room number 9.  The nurses and assistants take over and complete the final preparations for surgery in each of the separate operating rooms.  The anesthesiologist in each operating room begins to assess the patient and provide anesthesia.  Next, Dr. Smith shows up in Patient number 1’s room and starts the procedure and completes the more complicated portions of the surgery before turning the patient over to a colleague, or more likely a less-skilled resident, to finish up and close the surgery.  Dr. Smith then walks out of Operating Room number 5, gets re gloved and re-gowned, and walks into Operating Room number 9 to start the same procedure on Patient number 2.

No problem right….just another smooth day in the Operating Room.

But what happens when things go wrong with Patient number 1 – maybe the lesser experienced surgeon cuts an artery or vein and doesn’t have the experience or skill to repair the injury. I guess he/she just calls Dr. Smith who has already started the operation on Patient number 2 in another operating room down the hall.  But what if Patient number 2’s operation is at a critical point and Dr. Smith cannot leave his patient.  This practice of “double-booking” or concurrent surgery is a recipe for disaster.

I just read about this very practice in an article which appeared in the October 25 edition of the Boston Globe.  If you are going to have surgery, I urge you to ask your surgeon if he/she is “double-booking.”  If so, you can decide if that is an increased risk you are willing to take.  From my viewpoint, there is no way in hell this hospital practice doesn’t unnecessarily expose patients to the risk of increased complications during surgery.  All surgeries don’t go smoothly and you want your surgeon’s undivided attention.

Why would surgeons and hospitals “double-book?”  I’ll give you two guesses and the first guess doesn’t count.  They do it for money?  The Boston Globe article discusses how one orthopedic surgeon, who frequently “double-booked” and his income during an 11 month period was $2.1 million, making him the highest paid employee of Mass General Hospital.  In another case, the hospital charged surgical patients approximately $73,000 for one day of a different surgeon’s “double-booked” surgical procedures.

If you are having surgery at any of the following Virginia hospitals, ask your surgeon, “will you be with me for the entire length of my operation?” Your life might just depend on it.

Alleghany Regional Hospital, Bath Community Hospital, Bedford Memorial Hospital, Buchanan General HospitalCarilion Franklin Memorial Hospital, Carilion Giles Memorial Hospital, Carilion New River Valley Medical Center, Carilion Roanoke Memorial HospitalCarilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital, Clinch Valley Medical Center, Dickenson Community Hospital, Danville Regional Medical Center, Lewis-Gale Medical Center, Lonesome Pine Hospital,  Martinsville Memorial Hospital, Montgomery Regional Hospital, Mountain View Regional Medical Center, Norton Community Hospital,  Pulaski Community Hospital, Rockingham Memorial Hospital, Russell County Medical Center, Smyth County Community HospitalTazewell Community Hospital, Twin County Regional Healthcare, Wellmont Johnston Memorial Hospital, Wellmont Lonesome Pine Hospital, and Wythe County Community Hospital

Dan Frith

Dan Frith

Dan Frith has over 25 years of experience representing individuals and families in cases of medical malpractice throughout Virginia. He has been named "Best Medical Malpractice Attorney" by Roanoker Magazine and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To speak with Dan, contact him by email at dfrith@frithlawfirm.com.