We’re back with the past week worth of investigations into scurrilous behavior, questionable practices and unkept promises. As always, we’re curious to hear what you want us to look into next. Have an idea? Get in touch.
Unsafe Surgery Centers
When outpatient surgery centers started out 50 years ago, they were envisioned as low-cost alternatives for minor procedures. But as federal officials have sought to reduce healthcare costs, they’ve been allowed to take on more and more risky surgeries — without the support systems in place at regular hospitals.
In a year-long investigation, Kaiser Health News and the USA Today Network found 260 patients who died after surgeries in the centers, some following procedures as routine as tonsillectomies. They found centers that skimped on safety, training and equipment, and others that overlooked serious health problems when they agreed to perform a procedure.
Docs Slipping Through the Regulatory Cracks
In our own year-long investigation, we looked at hundreds of physicians who faced some sort of public action in one state, but were able to practice in another with a clean license. Among them were Gary Weiss, MD, who practiced for over three years in Florida without public action after he agreed to give up his license in two states, and Jay Riseman, MD, who was named “Physician of the Year” in Missouri after being put on probation and fined in Illinois for malpractice and failure to disclose limitations on his license in other states.
Fallout from Questionable VA Hiring
The Des Moines Register follows up on a story in December that found the VA had knowingly hired physicians with questionable histories. Among them was John Henry Schneider, MD, who racked up more than a dozen malpractice claims, including cases alleging he made surgical mistakes that left patients maimed, paralyzed or dead.
Schneider resigned, and the VA said it would review the records of all of its doctors by the end of February. They didn’t meet the deadline, and Iowa’s U.S. senators are now turning up the heat. The agency disclosed that there had been firings as a result, but they didn’t say how many had been affected, or where.
Involuntary Mental Holds For Students
NBC Bay Area found hundreds of students were put on involuntary 72-hour mental health holds last school year after incidents that occurred on campus. Several of the largest school districts, the team found, didn’t track how many times its students had been put in such a hold, or who those students were.
‘Dickensian Debt-Collection Mills’
The Intercept looks at how unpaid medical bills can turn into jail time, highlighting the case of unemployed and uninsured welder Rex Iverson. He was ordered in small-claims court to pay $2,300 for an ambulance ride, but had no wages to garnish. Iverson then skipped a hearing to discuss how he would pay off the debt.
He was arrested and put in jail. Later that day the 45-year-old died in the cell.