Doctor sorry about remark
By SAUNDRA AMRHEIN
© St. Petersburg Times,
The Oak Hill Hospital doctor accused of suggesting that America got what it deserved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks broke his silence Monday by saying his remarks "were misstated" and that he was referring to the breakdown in national security.
In a written statement on his first day back in his office seeing patients since news broke about the alleged comments, Dr. Durgarao Parimi condemned "the barbaric and terrorist attacks" and apologized for his comments that day, which were "made without any malice."
"They were misstated and came out of concern how such atrocities could happen," he said in the statement.
When asked in his Spring Hill office exactly what he said while watching televised reports of planes crashing into the World Trade Center from the Oak Hill physicians' lounge, Parimi refused to elaborate, pending the outcome of a investigation by a peer review committee.
The hospital convened the committee under state guidelines after it suspended Parimi's privileges in the wake of the uproar stirred by published reports quoting a colleague that accused him of saying America got what it deserved.
Residents, both those angered by what Parimi is alleged to have said and those who have defended him, have been waiting to hear whether Oak Hill would suspend Parimi or allow him to continue working at the hospital.
They can keep waiting. And when word comes, don't expect it to come from Oak Hill Hospital.
Hospital CEO Jaime Wesolowski said Monday that the review process is confidential and that the hospital could not, under state law, release any information about it, including the outcome. State officials with Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration agreed with his position.
While Parimi would not discuss the incident itself, the slender doctor with an American flag pin on his lapel confirmed that his comments at the time referred to security.
Parimi, 57, was born in India, but moved to the United States 32 years ago and became a citizen 11 years later. At the time of the attack, he said, he was shocked.
"I was upset for my family," he said, speaking softly in a thick accent about his son, niece and nephew, all of whom live or work in New York City. "It was terrible. I strongly condemn the attacks."
His son, a doctor in New York, was on call to help some of those injured in the attack, though he did not receive any patients from the World Trade Center.
In his statement, Parimi offered condolences to families of victims.
"As a physician, I certainly cannot condone the loss of any life," he said in the statement.
He asked forgiveness from Hernando County's residents for his remarks and offered up his long history here to illustrate his commitment to the community.
Parimi and his young family had moved to Florida in 1977 from Chicago, where he received his training. He has spent a total of 10 years working in veterans' hospitals, including his first six years in Florida at the VA Medical Center at Bay Pines in Pinellas County.
"I provided medical care to so many America heros (sic) during that period," he wrote in his statement.
In 1983, Parimi, his wife and two sons moved to Spring Hill to settle on property he had purchased and to open his practice in internal medicine. Both of his sons were raised here and graduated from Springstead High School. Both are now doctors, too.
A year after Parimi arrived in Spring Hill, he started work at what is now Oak Hill Hospital when it opened its doors.
"There were only four to five of us" on the west side of the county, he said. "We didn't have any specialists."
Parimi said he reached out to other doctors to bring them to Hernando County.
Dr. Ramakrishna Kanuri, a gastroenterologist who has practiced in Hernando County for 13 years, said it was Parimi who paved his way here, and helped bring other doctors, as well.
"He was the one that encouraged me to come into town here," Kanuri said Monday. "He said there was a need for specialists."
Colleagues in Chicago had put Kanuri in touch with Parimi, who hosted the new arrival at his house and invited him and his wife for many dinners.
"He was one that just went out of his way for somebody," he said. "He made me feel wanted and taught me the ropes. He did that with a lot of other people.
"He would help just about any physician."
Parimi is also very active in fundraisers at their Hindu temple in Tampa to benefit underprivileged families in the area, he said.
As for politics, Parimi is very knowledgeable, he added, but not one to make radical statements.
"When he speaks, he backs it up with facts. He doesn't make brash statements or something unfounded," he said.
However, even his patients at times have trouble hearing the soft-spoken doctor with the thick accent, Kanuri said.
"He's not the most eloquent speaker. I can see where somebody might have trouble understanding him at times," Kanuri said. "It's not unrealistic to be misquoted or for someone to get the wrong impression."
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