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Judge Awards $88K to Surgeon "Forced Out" for Double-Booking Complaints

Neurosurgeon James Holsapple, MD, alleged he was pressured to leave his job at Upstate University Hospital because he voiced safety concerns over a spine surgeon being permitted to book concurrent surgeries in multiple ORs.

Published: May 26, 2017

UNDER PRESSURE Surgical facilities that let their surgeons double-book ORs may find themselves under increasing scrutiny.

A New York Supreme Court judge has sided with a neurosurgeon who said he was pressured to resign from his former employer because he voiced his concerns over double-booking, the controversial practice of running concurrent surgeries in multiple ORs.

Earlier this month, New York Supreme Court Justice James P. Murphy awarded James Holsapple, MD, more than $88,275 in lost wages for being forced out of his job at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, N.Y. Dr. Holsapple alleged the hospital took aim at his salary and stature in retaliation for raising objections to "unlawful medical practices" the hospital had permitted — specifically, letting a newly recruited spine specialist double-book surgeries in adjoining ORs.

In a lawsuit filed against Upstate University Hospital in January 2011, Dr. Holsapple said he first voiced his concerns in 2007 and was later unjustly stripped of prestigious hospital appointments, including the title of residency coordinator, which reduced his salary by $82,500 per year. He left Upstate University Hospital in 2009 to join Boston Medical Center, where he is now chief of neurosurgery.

"I think the court got it exactly right," says Daniel Kaiser, an attorney who represented Dr. Holsapple. "He opposed the 2-room practice because he believed it was dangerous, and they retaliated against him. Ultimately he was driven from the hospital, and from Syracuse, so he feels vindicated. Hopefully this will serve as a deterrent to prevent other healthcare practices from engaging in retaliatory behavior against their employees who speak up."

Hospitals and surgery centers that let their surgeons double-book may find themselves under increasing scrutiny. Even so, a jury found in January that although a spine surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston failed to inform a patient that he planned to operate on 2 patients at once, the doctor's divided attention did not cause the patient's quadriplegia.

A spokesperson for Upstate University Hospital says the decision is currently under review by the attorney general's office, and "consideration is being given" to filing an appeal.

Bill Donahue

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