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Bayonet Point CEO slammed by doctors
A group of physicians vote no confidence in the hospital's leader, the chief of staff says.
By JODIE TILLMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published November 17, 2007
HUDSON - The chief of staff at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point on Friday said physicians harbor a sense of "total distrust" toward the hospital's top executive, partly over the administration's lingering review of six cardiologists banned from performing interventional procedures.
Dr. George Giannakopoulos, a neurologist who has held the top staff position for a year, said chief executive officer Steve Rector has shown "total disrespect and disregard for our issues."
On Thursday night, he said, a majority of the roughly 30 doctors attending a scheduled quarterly meeting of the hospital's 335 staff physicians took a vote of "no-confidence" against Rector. Giannakopoulos said this is a symbolic message that the doctors want to send to Nashville-based HCA Inc., the hospital chain that owns Bayonet Point.
"We want to get that on the record and send it to the top," he said. "There's a total distrust toward the CEO."
Rector, who has held the CEO position since March 2006, could not be reached for comment. But hospital spokesman Kurt Conover released a statement noting that only a small percentage of the staff was in attendance. The statement said Rector attended the first part of that meeting and was asked a question about the cardiologists' cases, now under internal peer review. Rector declined to discuss the matter and left before the vote of no-confidence was taken.
Giannakopoulos declined to provide many specific complaints against Rector, saying most of them are tied to privileged employee information. He criticized Rector's style in dealing with staff, saying it bordered on "autocratic" and that Rector tried to squash dissent at meetings. He added that a nurse, whom he would not name, had been fired after complaining to her supervisor about not having enough help on the floor.
Conover said he could not address that specific claim but said he could not believe it was accurate.
But Giannakopoulos said the most significant issue was the case of nine cardiologists who in 2004 lost their privileges to perform angioplasties at Bayonet Point and last year sued HCA over their suspensions.
The cardiologists lost the privileges after the hospital initiated a review of its interventional cardiology program. Back then, an HCA representative told the Times that those doctors had in some cases performed unnecessary angioplasties, used the wrong stents to prop open arteries and used incorrect or inadequate medicine to treat coronary disease.
No state agency took any action against the doctors; a state Web site shows that none face any disciplinary action, and many of them have continued performing the procedures at other hospitals.
Hospital spokesman Conover said those suspensions were not intended to be the final decision and that the doctors are going through a confidential, internal hearing process.
Bayonet Point recently reinstated the privileges of three of those doctors: Sudhir Agarwal, Gopal Chalavarya and Charles Saniour, said Giannakopoulos. But the other six - Adel Eldin, Mahmoud Nimer, Dipak Parekh, Thomas Mathews and Joseph Idicula - have been stuck in limbo over their future at Bayonet Point.
Giannakopoulos said no one in the administration would say why the review is taking so long. He compared the situation to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay being held without ever being charged.
"We're not saying they're innocent or they're guilty," he said of the remaining six doctors. "We're saying the process is not fair."
In the statement released by the hospital, Dan Miller, president of HCA's West Florida division said: "I applaud CEO Steve Rector for clarifying the hospital's commitment to the medical staff peer review process, which allows physicians to conduct peer review privately. This process improves patient care and quality in our hospitals, and under Steve's leadership, the hospital has received national recognition for quality patient care."
A year ago, all nine cardiologists sued HCA, saying the chain had tarnished their reputations by suggesting they had compromised their patients' health. The real motivation, the doctors alleged, was financial: The less expensive angioplasties were outpacing the number of costly bypass surgeries.
Barry Cohen, the Tampa lawyer who represents the doctors, on Friday said none of the three clients dropped out of the on-going suit after their privileges were reinstated. He declined to say why he believed those three and not the other six have had their privileges reinstated.
"These guys all have impeccable credentials," he said. "That's what makes this such a farce."
He said he'd heard about the no-confidence vote. "We understand it, and we're not surprised," he said.