Surgeons sue SUNY, allege retaliation for reporting patient safety concerns

Albany-based State University of New York and SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University in New York City face a lawsuit from two surgeons, who allege the organization retaliated against them for voicing patient safety concerns, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

The lawsuit was filed in December by Rainer Gruessner, MD, SUNY Downstate's former surgery department chairman, and John Renz, MD, PhD, a transplant surgeon who was removed from his position at SUNY Downstate in August 2019. Both surgeons remain on payroll at SUNY Downstate. 

The surgeons allege they repeatedly raised concerns with senior leadership about patient safety in the cardiothoracic and organ transplant programs. Among the complaints were allegations of misreported patient deaths and patients who died due to improper medication levels and "a lack of actual patient care," according to the report. The surgeons allege they had plans to report these concerns to regulators.

SUNY Downstate declined to comment on litigation to The Wall Street Journal. "We want to make it very clear that we take our patient care mission very seriously," it said in a statement to WSJ. The institution acknowledged that reviewers found "troubling issues" in two of its surgical programs and that it is working to improve and reopen the programs.

Read the full report here.  

Editor's note: This article was updated Jan. 24 at 9:45 a.m. CT. It incorrectly stated that Drs. Gruessner and Renz were fired from SUNY Downstate. The surgeons lost their titles, but both remain on payroll at SUNY Downstate. We regret this error.

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