Three years after BJC Medical Center was purchased and became Northridge, the medical center — or at least its insurance company — still faces malpractice lawsuits regarding the late Dr. Keith Ash.
Billy Ray Hawkes, 61, filed a lawsuit against the former BJC Medical Center for injuries he sustained in a 2007 “nissen fundoplication” procedure performed by Ash. The lawsuit got under way on Tuesday at the Jackson County Courthouse before State Court Judge Rob Alexander and continues this week.
The jury will hear the remaining witnesses and a verdict may be reached Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning.
Ash died at his residence on June 27, 2012.
On July 6, 2007, Ash performed a “nissen fundoplication” operation on Hawkes, which reportedly caused his stomach to perforate. Ash performed an identical “nissen” on Hawkes to remedy the complications.
The plaintiff’s case is built on BJC’s alleged negligence in the hiring and supervising of Ash. The plaintiff’s team, led by Jay Cook and Vincent Irwin III of Cook, Noell, Tolley and Bates, questioned whether Ash’s credentialing process was sufficient.
Ash completed the credentialing and privileging processes in nine days. It’s not abnormal for the credentialing process to take months, especially when there are “red flags” in a physician’s file.
Purported red flags within Ash’s file included an unexplained one-year leave of absence, the closure of his program at his former hospital in Dublin and a letter from his training program.
BJC sent a letter to the Navy asking whether Ash had any mental, emotional or physical condition that would keep him from performing safely as a surgeon. They confirmed that he did, according to the lawsuit. No one at BJC followed up with any further questions, according to the suit.
When Harvard School of Public Health’s, Ronald Goodspeed, was told of Yarbrough’s uninvolved management, he replied “I think that’s atrocious. The hospital CEO has responsibility for everyone in the hospital.”
The court was presented with 17 cases involving Ash’s patients. When looking at Ash’s “nissen” procedure, Dr. Steven Demeester, general surgeon at University of Southern California, found Ash’s procedure to be unsafe.
“Essentially, he’s using one suture to complete the nissen and tying that suture around the esophagus,” said Demeester. “It’s called a rosette. But it’s not the standard way of doing it.”
Using this method, the suture would tear after the patient coughed, sneezed or had any other esophageal disruption, he said. Ash’s remedy for this was reportedly often to perform the same procedure again.
During the testimony, it was reported that in January 2006, Willie Roach died from stomach perforation from the “nissen fundoplication.” Two more patients suffered from stomach perforation after receiving Ash’s “nissen” surgery in September and October.
There were no records that these surgeries were ever investigated. Ash continued to perform “nissen rosette” and would perform it on Hawkes the following year.
For the full story, see the July 31 issue of The Commerce News.