Complaint filed in VA surgery case
MURRAY, Ky. — A woman whose husband died after gallbladder surgery at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Southern Illinois said she has filed an administrative complaint with the agency after learning her husband’s doctor resigned.
Bob Shank, 50, of Murray died Aug. 10, a day after undergoing surgery at the Marion Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
“It’s still unbelievable to me,’’ said Katrina Shank, whose complaint alleges surgical incompetence caused her husband’s death. “I sit and I look at his picture and I talk to him every night, but it’s just not the same. I tell him that I love him and I miss him and that I know he’s probably in heaven and already knows all this stuff.’’
Shank’s surgeon, Dr. Jose Veizaga-Mendez, resigned from the hospital last month, shortly before the hospital suspended inpatient surgeries because of a spike in post-surgical deaths. Veizaga-Mendez was prohibited from practicing in Massachusetts last year after being accused of “grossly’’ substandard care, according to a report this week in the Chicago Tribune.
(Note: See outline of Massachusetts cases below as found by Oldtimer)
“I don’t know why they even allowed him in the operating room,’’ Shank said.
The hospital, which treats veterans from Southern Illinois, southwestern Indiana and western Kentucky, has reassigned or placed on leave four officials at the hospital, including the chief of surgery. Patients requiring surgery are being referred to nearby hospitals, according to a statement Friday by the VA’s Washington, D.C., office.
“The VA is also reviewing these surgical cases to identify cases in which surgical patients may have received care that was not consistent with standards and to determine whether that care may have led to complication or death,’’ the statement said.
Our Heroes don’t deserve surgeons prohibited from practice elsewhere!!!!
Who is minding the store?
Surgeon left trail of fatal errors
Doctor in Downstate death was barred in Massachusetts
- | Tribune staff reporter
- September 20, 2007
A review of malpractice suits against Veizaga-Mendez and of cases investigated by Massachusetts authorities paints a disturbing picture of a surgeon who repeatedly made life-threatening errors but still was allowed to operate.A May 2006 report by a peer reviewer spelled out in chilling detail surgical mistakes, errors in judgment, and delays in diagnosis and treatment.Reviewing the case of a 58-year-old man who died after undergoing a procedure to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease, the report concluded “the standard of care was grossly unmet in this case.”
It found that a surgical error committed by Veizaga-Mendez caused a stitch to dislodge and leak fluid from the man’s esophagus, resulting in a massive blood infection and respiratory failure. The patient died six weeks later.
“This case is remarkable for multiple errors,” the report said.
The family of that patient, Jeronimo Coronado, sued Veizaga-Mendez in a Massachusetts district court in 2003. A settlement was reached before the case went to trial.
“I have been doing this work for 26 years and he is among the very worst that I have ever run into,” said Rhode Island malpractice attorney Bennett J. Bergman, who represented the family. “Sometimes doctors are careless and make errors, but in my opinion this went way beyond that. I felt the man was dangerous.”
In a case not included in the state authorities’ report, a jury awarded $652,000 to a Massachusetts man and his wife after Veizaga-Mendez placed two sutures from a hernia repair directly into his bladder. For almost four years, the man “suffered from blood in his urine, knee-buckling pain every time he moved his bowels or urinated, and couldn’t work or have relations with his wife,” said Byron Taylor, the Massachusetts attorney who represented him.
Other errors noted in the state report include misdiagnoses that led to the wrong surgical procedure being performed, prolonged delays in diagnosing post-surgical complications and the use of improper surgical methods.Patients were described as requiring lengthy hospitalizations, unnecessary surgeries and prolonged pain. Some faced the possibility of future surgeries that should have been unnecessary.
In one case, Veizaga-Mendez had planned to treat and discharge a critically ill patient instead of performing surgery. After another physician intervened, Veizaga-Mendez operated, but his errors led to fever, blood infection, pneumonia and a heart attack, according to the investigator.
The report on the seven cases concluded: “I find that the most significant and repeating issue of the involved surgeon is a lack of judgment. … Many of these complications could have been avoided by sound judgment and adherence to surgical fundamentals. … This should be addressed to prevent injuries to future patients.”Air Force veteran Robert Shank, 50, was unaware of his surgeon’s troubling past as he waited on the operating table at the VA in Marion last month. His mind, his wife said, was focused on hunting and fishing and spending time with his six children and four grandchildren.“We told each other we loved each other. It was just like any day,” a sobbing Katrina Shank recalled.
“It was supposed to be so simple.”
All these cases and the VA says “keep on going – Only the best for our Heroes!”