Ballad dismisses cardiothoracic surgeon who asked CEO to make incision on patient

Johnson City, Tenn.-based Ballad Health let go a cardiothoracic surgeon last week after he invited the then-CEO of Bristol (Tenn.) Regional Medical Center to participate in a surgical procedure, according to the Bristol Herald Courier.

Greg Neal stepped down as CEO of the hospital on Aug. 20 and subsequently told the Courier that he was asked to resign after participating in a surgical procedure without a medical license. On Aug. 25, a Ballad Health spokesperson confirmed to the Courier that Nathan Smith, MD, was the surgeon who invited the CEO to enter the operating room to observe the surgery and asked him to make the initial incision for the procedure. 

Mr. Neal admitted his role in the incident in an email to the Courier, saying he regretted making the incision and accepted accountability.

"More importantly, I apologize to the patient and their family. I apologize to the team members of Ballad Health, and to the leadership of Ballad Health," Mr. Neal said. 

After learning of the incident, Ballad officials launched an investigation, which concluded with asking Mr. Neal to resign and terminating Dr. Smith's employment, according to the report. 

The Courier reported that Dr. Smith had only been with Bristol Regional Medical Center since July, the same month he graduated from the cardiothoracic surgery fellowship program of Albany (N.Y.) Medical College. The publication was unable to contact Dr. Smith on Aug. 25, and it's unclear if the state is investigating the incident. 

"Any complaint and/or investigation is confidential unless and until the board takes action," a spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Health told the Courier, regarding a possible investigation that would come before the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners. 

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