- St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center in Syracuse reported an operating loss of $4.1 million during the first half of the year. In a report to bond investors, the hospital attributed most of the loss to a loss in volume after the news broke than an orthopedic surgeon was accused of slapping anesthetized patients on the buttocks and calling them names.
- Surgeon Michael Clark was investigated by the Onondaga County District Attorney's Office, but the DA did not file criminal charges because potential patients could not be identified. Clark's conduct allegedly took place over a year and a half. An employee complained about the behavior in early 2013, according to a federal investigation, but the hospital took no action until a complaint was filed with top hospital administrators in December of that year.
- Clarke has denied wrongdoing and is facing an investigation from the state Office of Professional Medical Conduct. He has been working at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse since his departure from St. Joseph's, where he had the third highest patient volume for an orthopedic surgeon in the region.
It has been made abundantly clear that poor physician conduct hurts hospital profits, volume and reputation. This is particularly true when the public finds out a physician has been reported and the hospital didn't take action, as appears to be the case here.
In July, Johns Hopkins accepted a settlement of $190 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 8,000 patients after a gynecologist secretly filmed them with a pen camera during pelvic exams. The suit alleges that the hospital should have been aware of his conduct. The hospital has lost patients and has engaged in vigorous outreach efforts, including sending a letter to the offending physician's patient list apologizing and encouraging the women to seek care with other hospital specialists.
As in the Johns Hopkins case, Michael Clark's alleged misconduct highlights the importance of friendly whistle-blower policies in hospitals, where patients are often totally vulnerable to their physicians.
Want to read more? You may want to read this story about the $190-million Johns Hopkins settlement for physician misconduct.