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Suit Says Hospital Infected Patients Over MRI

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For a second time, an orthopedic surgeon has sued Northwestern Medical Center (NMC) in St. Albans, Vermont, accusing the hospital of deliberately infecting his patients with bacteria in order to eliminate MRI competition.

Raymond A. Long, MD, now a resident of Florida, says in the lawsuit that while practicing at the hospital in 2002, he mentioned that he was thinking of adding an MRI machine at his office. The lawsuit says the hospital was also planning to add an MRI machine, “unbeknownst to Plaintiff.”

The lawsuit then makes this inflammatory claim:

The following will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery: Defendant NMC wanted to kill the competition for business that would have arisen from Plaintiff’s plans.

That opening phrase—”The following will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery:”—appears 10 times in the 13-page lawsuit.

The lawsuit says the hospital also was involved in an illegal kickback scheme at the time and feared Dr. Long would expose it. The hospital voluntarily reported the violation to the federal government in 2006 and, in 2007, paid a $30,000 fine.

In order to stifle potential competition and shut up a potential whistle-blower, the lawsuit says, “In 2003, someone at NMC deliberately contaminated several of Plaintiff’s surgeries with bacteria acquired by the hospital, thereby causing a series of life and limb threatening infections in Plaintiff’s patients.”

The lawsuit backs that accusation with a report from William R. Jarvis, MD, a former official at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Dr. Jarvis examined records of four patients on whom Dr. Long performed shoulder surgery in November and December 2003. All developed infections. The report says an unopened bottle of irrigation fluid provided to Dr. Long for surgery on February 6, 2004, was contaminated with bacteria.

It concludes that the most likely explanation for the infections “is that the patients were intentionally infected through extrinsically and intentionally contaminated irrigation fluid (or other fluids, medications, equipment or materials) provided by NMC personnel.”

VTDigger, a Vermont news Web site, reported on the lawsuit recently. But it turns out this isn’t the first time Dr. Long has sued regarding this issue. In January 2008, the hospital settled (for a reported $4 million) a lawsuit making basically the same accusations. Apparently sparking the new lawsuit was the hospital’s refusal to void an Adverse Action Report to the National Practitioner Data Bank that said Dr. Long had surrendered his clinical privileges because of an investigation relating to his professional competence or conduct.

Dr. Long contends that the Adverse Action Report, and accusations by the hospital in 2012 that Dr. Long exhibited evidence of psychiatric problems and resigned from the hospital because he did not want to submit to a psychiatric exam, have prevented him from finding employment.

The hospital told VTDigger that it could not comment.

Related CME seminar (up to 13.5 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): New Horizons in Musculoskeletal MRI

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