C-TH gastric bypass patients file lawsuit | NevadaAppeal.com
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C-TH gastric bypass patients file lawsuit

by Kurt Hildebrand

Nearly two dozen people who were scheduled for gastric bypass surgery have filed a class-action lawsuit against Carson-Tahoe Hospital.

Attorney Patrick King filed the lawsuit Tuesday afternoon in Carson District Court.

All of the plaintiffs were patients of Dr. Kent Skogerson on Dec. 1, 2003, and were undergoing preparation for the surgery when the hospital enacted the moratorium.

The hospital lifted the moratorium on Feb. 1 after reviewing the program policy and procedures. King said that since the moratorium was lifted, no new surgeries have been scheduled.

“As of today, not a single bariatric surgery has been scheduled,” King said. “There has been a total lack of communication between the hospital and the patients. The patients were in a catch-22. The hospital is saying they needed to do a moratorium, while what they were doing was scheduling people for pre-op tests. They didn’t stop billing people.”

About 82 patients scheduled for the surgery were affected by the moratorium. The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $40,000 per patient, or a minimum of $3.28 million should a judge approve the class and all patients waiting for treatment opt to enter the lawsuit.

Skogerson has filed a separate lawsuit against the hospital. Carson City judges Michael Griffin and Bill Maddox have recused themselves from that case, King said.

The moratorium was imposed following the death of a 31-year-old bariatric patient at Carson-Tahoe.

Hospital Chief Executive Officer Ed Epperson defended the moratorium decision, saying the goal was to improve the quality of the program.

“The new protocols call for an significant amount of medical clearance of patients following American Society for Bariatric Surgery and the National Institutes of Health,” he said. “Once cleared medically, then the surgery can go forward.”

Epperson said that clearance could include cardiology and dietary consultations.

He agreed that no surgeries have yet been scheduled, but that once patients are cleared, they will be able to go forward.

“We hope that will happen soon,” he said. “We have a couple of physicians who have completed most of the medical clearance for the patients.”

He said there is a possibility that patients underwent similar tests under their physicians’ care and that the hospital does not want to penalize them.

“It may be in trying to get them back, there will be a duplication of tests,” he said. “We will write off the costs in those cases. The ultimate job of the board is to protect the patients and provide them with the highest quality services for the public.”

In a statement prepared by the hospital in expectation of the lawsuit, hospital officials said the surgery is elective and never threatened the health of the patients.

“Every single time we make a decision between what’s best for patient care and what’s best for someone else’s workload, we’re going to choose patient care,” Epperson said.

King said his clients are seeking damages for patient abandonment, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, bad faith, negligence, misrepresentation and emotional distress.

Contact Kurt Hildebrand at hildebrand@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1215.