The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article on April 13. The article reported on a Portland, Oregon spine surgeon who lost his hospital operating privileges at the Providence Portland Medical Center.

Why you ask?

Because available data revealed the surgeon had the highest rate of multiple spinal-fusion surgeries among the 3,407 spinal surgeons who performed the surgery on Medicare patients in the United States in 2008 and 2009. We are talking about multiple spinal fusions on the same patients. He operated on one patient seven times!

To me the real story behind this report is not the actions of the surgeon. The real story is that the hospital sat back and did NOTHING for at least two years while this doctor operated and re-operated and re-operated on the same patients over and over. Why didn’t the hospital do something? The answer will make you green…at least it made the hospital green and lots of it. I am talking about money. Bills for use of the operating room, bills for use of the hospital’s surgical staff, bills for anesthesia, bills for the recovery room, bills for the intensive care unit, bills for a regular hospital room while the patient recovered from surgery after surgery.

The hospital only took action to suspend the surgeon’s surgical privileges after the Wall Street Journal published a previous article on March 29 disclosing the surgeon’s actions.

My Take: The hospital knew the surgeon was performing unnecessary surgeries. In fact, the Oregon Medical Board had previously (2006) forced the surgeon to take remedial training after determining he had performed unnecessary surgeries and for allegedly billing for procedures he did not perform. In my opinion, the hospital looked the other way while stuffing dollars into its bank account and allowing patients to suffer. These are the same hospitals and doctors who are looking forward to increased protection and a reduced liklihood of being sued if current changes are passed by the United States Congress.

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.