A surgeon working at a Cleveland-area hospital was implanting patients with coronary stents they didn’t need for at least two years.
According to a Cleveland Plain Dealer report, St. John Medical Center in Westlake, Ohio, has informed more than 23 patients that their cardiac surgeon likely implanted them with a coronary artery stent they didn’t need. The hospital says it will pay for follow-up visits for the patients to ensure they’re not at risk of serious and potentially life-threatening side effects as a result of the unnecessary procedure.
St. John is not releasing the name of the surgeon but has dismissed him from practicing at the hospital in the future. The report indicates a hospital source said the surgeon was never fully employed by the hospital but had practiced and performed surgeries there since 1989. Concurrently with his work at St. John Medical Center, The Plain Dealer reports he was also performing surgeries and consulting patients at Southwest General Hospital, also in the Cleveland area.
That second hospital told the source it is beginning its own investigation into possible misconduct on the part of the surgeon and how many patients there may have received the unnecessary stents.
Though it is not stated, the surgeon was likely taking gratuities from the manufacturer of the stents. He had only been implanting stents in patients he saw at St. John Medical Center between 2009 and February 2012.
St. John said it was beginning the process of contacting regulatory agencies within the federal and state governments that dealt with Medicare payments as the hospital likely was the beneficiary, in some way, of the unnecessary surgeries.
The concept of unnecessary surgeries is not new and if this case is like other similar cases, the surgeon likely was taking financial incentives to implant patients with a coronary artery stent. If the surgeries were performed on Medicare-eligible patients, the federal healthcare system likely would foot the bill for most, if not all of it.
The surgeon’s misguided ways were noticed by employees at the St. John’s Medical Center cardiac catheterization unit. The report indicates that some staff members of that unit contacted hospital administration because the surgeon in question wasn’t performing surgeries the way other surgeons on staff had done it.
The hospital responded by consulting an outside expert – another heart surgeon – and asked him to review recent surgeries conducted by the surgeon in question. Since opening that investigation, the consultant has reviewed 30 cases and found 23 procedures in which a patient received an unnecessary stent.