Mississippi VA hospital hired surgeon despite malpractice concerns, OIG report says

Management at Biloxi, Miss.-based Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System hired a thoracic surgeon in 2013 despite knowing he had a history of licensure and malpractice issues, according to a new report from the Office of Inspector General, The Sun Herald reported.

Staff members found out about the surgeon's past in 2017, which triggered the OIG investigation. "When interviewed, facility leaders did not have a clear understanding of the requirements for reviewing the surgeon's care provided," the report said. The decision-making process that led to hiring the surgeon was undocumented.

Hospital leaders placed the surgeon on "surgical pause" in October 2017 and tried to hire an external proctor to evaluate him. The surgeon then resigned.

Hospital management removed the surgeon "without following required processes, including notifications to external reporting agencies," the report said. Failure to follow these processes led to a delay in reporting to a state licensing board and meant the surgeon could not be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank. The OIG also found faulty documentation related to the hiring of 50 other physicians.

The report comes after the OIG cited the facility in March 2018 for a patient's death in the ICU, which lacked full-time intensivist coverage. The new report includes 19 recommendations for the local VA director and puts the regional Veterans Integrated Service Network 16 in charge of overseeing implementation.

"We appreciate the Office of Inspector General's oversight, which focuses on an individual who no longer works for VA and events that occurred more than two years ago," Cindy Dorfner, the VA's chief of public affairs, told Becker's in an email. She noted several changes the Biloxi health system has made since the OIG first made recommendations in 2018, which include reviews to ensure all providers are in good standing and implementation of a tracking tool to closely monitor all licensure/certification/registration/malpractice actions for providers.

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