Report: Doctor kept working in Illinois after losing license in other state

Friday, September 21, 2007

CHICAGO -- A surgeon who was prohibited from practicing in Massachusetts last year after being accused of "grossly" substandard care worked at a Southern Illinois veterans hospital until last month, according to a published report.

Dr. Jose Veizaga-Mendez surrendered his Massachusetts license in July 2006 after a state regulatory board accused him of providing unacceptable care to seven patients and of failing to report malpractice cases, the Chicago Tribune reported in Thursday editions.

Veizaga-Mendez resigned from the VA Medical Center in Marion last month, shortly before the hospital suspended inpatient surgeries because of a spike in post-surgical deaths. The Veterans Administration confirmed Veizaga-Mendez worked at the facility, but declined to give further details on him, including whether he is part of the investigation.

The hospital has reassigned or placed on leave four officials at the hospital, including the chief of surgery. Patients requiring surgery are being referred to nearby hospitals.

A telephone listing for Veizaga-Mendez could not be found Thursday.

A Massachusetts report from May 2006, based on peer review and state authorities, detailed seven alleged medical malpractice cases involving Veizaga-Mendez.

Among them was one in which Veizaga-Mendez treated a 58-year-old man who died after a procedure for gastroesophageal reflux. The report said, "the standard of care was grossly unmet in this case." The 2003 case was settled before it went to trial.

The report also alleged unnecessary surgeries, improper surgical methods and misdiagnoses.

"Many of these complications could have been avoided by sound judgment and adherence to surgical fundamentals ... This should be addressed to prevent injuries to future patients," it concluded.

State medical boards were notified of Veizaga-Mendez's license status in a national alert July 2006. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation launched an investigation and state officials have held a preliminary meeting consider if the surgeon's Illinois license should be revoked. Another meeting is scheduled for next month.

VA officials said they complete background checks on doctors before employment.

In a statement to the Tribune, the VA said, "All verifications are obtained and considered along with the results of queries to the National Practitioner Data Bank/Health Integrity and Protection Data Bank, as well as the Federation of State Medical Boards Disciplinary Alert Services prior to the granting of privileges."

The VA Medical Center in Marion treats veterans from Southern Illinois, southwestern Indiana and western Kentucky.

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