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Inquiry Finds Unnecessary Heart Procedures Performed at Florida Hospital Chain

By Orlando Personal Injury Attorney on August 14, 2012

Two years ago, the chief ethics officer of the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), the biggest hospital chain in the U.S., received a letter written by a nurse at one of the corporation’s hospitals in Fort Pierce, Fla. The troubling nature of the letter prompted an interview with the nurse, who said that one of the doctors at the Lawnwood Regional Medical Center had been performing unnecessary heart procedures on patients. A subsequent HCA internal investigation found that the nurse was right; one of the cardiologists had been putting patients’ lives at risk by performing unneeded surgeries.

C. T. Tomlinson, the nurse who wrote the letter, said that he could no longer live with the knowledge that people were being operated on without justification.

“It bothered me,” he said in a telephone interview. “I’m a registered nurse. I care about my patients.”

After HCA officials conducted their investigation, a reporter with the New York Times uncovered an internal memo written by Stephen Johnson, a HCA ethics officer, which read: “The allegations related to unnecessary procedures being performed in the cath lab are substantiated.”

Mr. Johnson’s memo also said that HCA declined to renew Mr. Tomlinson’s contract in retaliation for making officials aware of the unnecessary surgeries. However, HCA investigators found similar problems at more than one of their Florida hospitals. They found that some surgeons had been increasing profits and driving up costs at different facilities by performing unnecessary procedures as far back as 2002. Two of the hospitals cited in the investigation included the Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and the Cedars Medical Center in Miami, which is no longer owned by HCA.

Many of the unnecessary surgeries involved catheterizations of cardiac blood vessels and the insertions of stents, mesh sleeves that expand constriction arteries and improve blood flow. Very recently, HCA executives acknowledged that surgeons practicing at at least ten of their facilities, seven or eight of which are located in Florida, are under review by the States Attorney’s office in Miami. Many of the doctors cited in the review are still practicing at HCA hospitals.

Investigations like this reinforce the importance of medical malpractice attorneys in Orlando and throughout the rest of the country. James O. Cunningham and other Orlando personal injury lawyers can help victims of these and other types of medical malpractice receive the fair and just compensation they deserve from unethical doctors who place personal profit above patient safety. If you believe that you or a close family member is a victim of medical malpractice and you have questions about your rights and possible legal options, call Mr. Cunningham today at 800-425-2004 to schedule a free consultation.

James O. Cunningham

Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.

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