The management of BJC Medical Center stands firmly behind its former general surgeon in the wake of his resignation and a malpractice lawsuit.
Dr. Keith Ash submitted his resignation from the medical center staff June 9; the next day the hospital was served with a malpractice lawsuit filed by four of Ash’s former patients.
The issue came up at Monday’s meeting of the BJC Medical Center Authority, the board that manages the medical center.
“It was just bad timing that he resigned on Monday and we were served notice of the suit on Tuesday,” commented Jim Yarborough, CEO of the medical center.
According to Yarborough, officials had known for some time that Ash wanted to relocate to a larger community where he could be part of a group. At BJC, he was a sole practitioner, subject to being on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Yarborough called the allegations against the hospital “without merit,” and said the authority’s attorney “is perplexed about how they (the four plaintiffs) could make these allegations.”
“We will defend our position in regard to these allegations,” he told the board.
After the meeting, both Yarborough and chief financial officer Bill Williams said Ash’s surgical record is exceptional.
“The numbers (of surgical cases resulting in death or complications) do not fall out (of the norm),” Yarborough said.
“This is a doctor who has a one percent death or complication rate,” Williams added.
Yarborough lamented the “bad publicity” created by the lawsuit and expressed hope that some of Dr. Ash’s patients will stand up for him. He also pointed out than none of the alleged problems resulted in a death and suggested that some of the allegations might constitute “legal malpractice.”
Williams predicted that the plaintiffs and their attorney will “look bad in front of the judge,” once the facts are known.
“Most of these charges are groundless,” he declared.
Williams also took exception to statements in the lawsuit that Ash is primarily responsible for turning the medical center’s finances from red ink to black. He produced statistics indicating that for May, for example, Ash ranked fifth in inpatient revenue and sixth in outpatient revenue among hospital staff members.
“The most important issue (in the financial turnaround) is the recruiting of internists and is related to their inpatient admissions,” he said. “In the total scheme of things, his (numbers) are not a major amount.”
Williams indicated that preliminary discussions with the hospital’s insurance company indicate a strong interest in fighting the allegations, although he conceded that whether to fight or settle may be the decision of the insurance company, not the hospital authority.
In addition to alleging malpractice against Ash, the suit claims that the medical center was negligent in its credentialing of Ash and participated with Ash “in a pattern of racketeering activity” against the plaintiffs.
To the editor:
In the past few years I had the distinct pleasure of working closely with Dr. Ash and I have also been a patient of his as well. I have observed his kind, compassionate, and firendly bedside manner on multiple occasions. I have heard the high praise and accolades from the patients of BJC hospital, some from patients who had not been a patient personally but had friends/family who were. He was truly an asset to BJC Medical center as he is highly skilled as a surgeon who is well known and loved in the community. He is dedicated to his work and his patients. He is a good person and an excellent surgeon. I would hope that the community as well as his fellow doctors would stand up for him at his time of need as I know he would do for them.
I know that no matter where Dr. Ash goes to practice now, I would not hesitate to go to him for any surgical needs for myself, family, and friends.
It is up to the hospital and the community to stand behind this wonderful surgeon. I know I will be there for him.
He would not have any reason to be in the nursing home.
People in the nursing home are not patients. The nursing home is a private place of residence, just like your home is your private place of residence. He wouldn't come to your home either.