A New York Supreme Court jury in Syracuse issued a $2M malpractice verdict against a surgeon (Dr. Greenky) who routinely staggered Joint Replacements in two to three OR’s. According to an article on the topic in Syracuse.com, the patient suffered injuries from the procedure and was the 6th of 14 patients for the surgeon that day. The surgeon testified that he routinely put in 14 hours of work on operative days, a practice that the plaintiffs’ attorney likened to an assembly line. The plaintiff was quoted as saying she “cannot understand why surgeons performing complex operations are allowed to work more than 14 hours a day when bus drivers are prohibited by federal regulations from driving more than 10 hours.” Her attorney alluded to production pressure leading to the poor outcome in this case, indicating that the surgeon probably would have had to cancel some of the other procedures on his schedule that day if he spent extra time on the plaintiff.
The defense argued that the injured patient did not prove that using two operating rooms is negligent or that it caused the patient’s injury. His attorney said the testimony about Greenky’s use of more than one operating room should not have been allowed and probably influenced what he called the “excessively high verdict.”
EHC NOTE: Guidelines have been issued from the American College of Surgeons supporting overlapping surgical procedures with patient consent. Despite this, when looked at under the microscope of a trial, the award in this case shows that a lay jury may not view this practice as acceptable care. While we regularly see the use of “flip” rooms to meet surgeon demands and to facilitate OR throughput and efficiency, there are of course a set of patients involved in the underlying cases. Properly managed, it is our experience that these cases may be provided with quality equal to that of cases performed in a single operating room. However, from a patient or a lay person’s perspective, this practice may sound quite concerning. “What do you mean my surgeon left in the middle of my procedure to start on another patient?”