Bitter Feud Between Surgeon and Hospital

     HOUSTON (CN) – A heart surgeon claims in court that a hospital CEO and a competing physician defamed him by manipulating data to claim that patients were more likely to die under his care.
     Dr. Michael Gomez sued Memorial Hermann Hospital System, Memorial Hermann Physician Network, CEO Keith Alexander and Dr. Michael Macris in Harris County Court.
     Gomez says he returned to his hometown of Houston after medical school and built a “stellar reputation” as a heart surgeon in West Houston and suburban Katy.
     Gomez performed his surgeries at Memorial Hermann’s Memorial City Medical Center.
     However, “With new management and operational changes at Memorial City Memorial Hermann, including the arrival of Mr. Alexander as CEO, Dr. Gomez became increasingly concerned about a decline in the quality of patient care at the hospital,” the complaint states.
     “The decline in patient care arose from the understaffing of qualified nurses in the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU), general care units and the emergency room; the lack of consistent procedural safeguards for monitoring patients; and the failure to update critical equipment.
     “Memorial Hermann also began deliberate efforts to restrict surgical care for the most critically ill patients, pushing for abandonment of ‘salvage’ cases (for example, emergency surgery on patients in active cardiac arrest, able to be saved in some but not all circumstances by a qualified surgeon.)
     “What this meant to patients most in need of a surgeon with Dr. Gomez’s unique qualifications was the elimination of patient choice and potentially life-saving procedures in favor of potentially higher statistical ranking for Memorial Hermann as calculated by U.S. News and World Report.” (Parentheses in original.)
     Gomez says he spoke out about the declining care, and told the hospital he would move his surgeries to The Methodist Hospital if the dysfunction continued.
     In response, he says, CEO Alexander and Dr. Macris embarked on a scheme to destroy his reputation and ability to practice in West Houston and Katy.
     “In order to discredit Dr. Gomez and crush his ability to practice medicine in the West Houston and Katy community, Dr. Macris and Memorial Hermann began compiling (and distorting) statistical data related to the mortality rates of Dr. Gomez’s patients,” the complaint states.
     “The manipulated data, which was reported using neither the generally accepted methodologies for proper peer review comparison nor basic scientific principles, was intended to create the appearance that patients were likely to die in Dr. Gomez’s care as compared to other surgeons at Memorial Hermann.” (Parentheses in complaint.)
     Gomez claims Alexander called an emergency meeting where he gave him the option to immediately suspend his practice, or agree to “active interventional monitoring.”
     A peer review committee intervened, examined the phony data and exonerated Gomez, but the damage to his reputation was already done, he says.
     Gomez claims that even after the committee cleared his name, Alexander and Macris kept up a “whisper campaign,” disseminating the false data to the medical community.
     “Facing continuing harassment and improper attempts to interfere with his practice at Memorial Hermann, Dr. Gomez resigned his privileges at Memorial Hermann in May 2012,” the complaint states.
     Gomez seeks punitive damages for business disparagement, defamation, tortious interference, and restraint of trade.
     He is represented by Michael Doyle with Doyle Raizner in Houston.

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