PORT ST. JOE - A former Hudson doctor, who has been praised by some patients, sued by others and come under state scrutiny, has moved his patented arthroscopic spinal surgery practice to a bankrupt hospital he is purchasing in the Panhandle.
Gulf Pines Hospital is again bustling with doctors, nurses and about 30 patients weekly that Dr. Alfred Bonati and his staff expect to treat for back problems.
A $3.8-million sale of the hospital, the only one in Port St. Joe, to Bonati's company, Morning Star Holdings LLC, is pending.
Shirley Larmon, 77, of Hudson, was the first patient at the relocated Bonati Institute for Advanced Arthroscopic Spinal Surgery to undergo the procedure Wednesday. It uses laser technology and is less invasive than conventional surgery.
"I feel like 100 percent, like a different person," Larmon said.
Other patients, including proathletes, have endorsed Bonati's results, but Agency for Health Care Administration records show he paid a total of $199,717 in four malpractice cases from 1988 to 2000.
The Florida Board of Medicine filed a complaint against him in 2001, alleging wrongdoing involving 14 patients. It was resolved with a settlement that let Bonati keep his license but requires a supervising physician to review his patient charts.
Bonati is seeking more staff. Only 15 to 20 of 100 staffers made the move from Hudson, including three doctors training in the procedure, a Bonati spokesman said.