THE STORY OF 21 YEARS OF NOVANT'S DISCRIMINATION!
RACISM OF NOVANT (FORMERLY PRESBYTERIAN) HOSPITAL - CHARLOTTE
I AM LIVING PROOF
Ron A. Virmani, M.D.
On September 1, 1995, Novant hospital called me to their imposing corporate Board Room in Charlotte and dropped a bomb on me. They said they were summarily suspending my Novant hospital privileges at 4 PM that day!
Suspension from a hospital is a kiss of death for any physician! Without Novant hospital privileges, I could never deliver another baby nor help women in need of gynecologic surgery. My future went bleak in front of my eyes! Once this sort of thing happens, it has a domino effect on a physician's life. His name is entered in the National Practitioner Data Bank and he becomes blackballed in the country. His professional and social life take a nosedive.
I knew that Novant had been reviewing my charts for several months now. But they never gave me a chance to explain my actions and defend my charts as required by Novant hospital’s own by-laws. This was truly a stab in the back.
“We do not have to tell you what the charts are.” Said then CEO of Presbyterian (now Novant) hospital Mr. Paul Betzold (Caucasian) and chief of ob-gyn Dr. Ronald Brown (also Caucasian). They simply stated that I had 24 “problematic” charts, as determined by the Novant peer review committee (all handpicked Caucasian male ob-gyn physicians(not a representative sample of ob-gyn physicians in the community, most in competition with me)
And why the "summary suspension"? Was I an an imminent danger to my patients? Absolutely NOT! I was practicing just like any regular ob-gyn, had not injured any patient except an inadvertent injury described below, which happened 9 months before the suspension.
In fact, Carolinas Medical Center had no problem letting me continue to deliver babies and do surgery at their facility for a long time after that. But because most of my work was concentrated at Presbyterian Matthews and because I became branded as a "bad doctor" in the community, it became impractical for me to continue my private practice. The "summary suspension" was a special ugly trick played by Presbyterian hospital. Because I could not work at the hospital, my source of income was gone and I had little money to seek legal help. Still I took some loans and got legal help..
The fact was also that Presbyterian hospital was setting up its empire in the Southeast corridor of Charlotte in the early 1990's. Presbtyerian Matthews was part of that shiny "empire". The hospital was buying up practices of Caucasian doctors. I, the first Indian doctor in town, was a major inconvenience!
Having migrated from India, I had received my M.D. from New Jersey Medical School in 1985 and finished my ob-gyn residency from Temple University hospital in 1989. I had come to Charlotte in 1990 and become a member of Novant (then Presbyterian) hospital medical staff as an ob-gyn physician. I became board-certifed in ob-gyn at the earliest possible opportunity - in December of 1991.
On December 1994, I had a surgical mishap operating at Novant Hospital. Inadvertently, I punctured the external iliac artery in a patient during laparoscopy. This was unfortunate but a known complication of such a procedure. I immediately proceeded to laparotomy and summoned Dr. John Hollenbeck (general surgeon) and Dr. Scott Andrews (cardiovascular surgeon) to assist me. We repaired the injury and the patient went home after a few days stay in the Novant hospital. My malpractice insurance company as well as several independent reviewers determined that I met the standard of care in this case. However, citing business reasons, the insurance company decided to settle the lawsuit for 300K.
Following the incident, Novant hospital went on a fishing expedition of my charts from over a two year period. Most of these charts had been filed in the hospital archives as having no quality of care issues. Anyway, Novant handpicked a committee of six Caucasian ob-gyn doctors, 5 of them in direct competition with me. The sixth doctor was an employee of the hospital - a maternal fetal medicine specialist, not a general ob-gyn doctor, thus not even my peer.
This departmental “peer review” committee of Novant hospital headed by Dr. James Hardy nitpicked and maliciously labeled 24 out of 102 of my charts “problematic”. This "peer review" was totally unnecessary and was only started with the real desire of the administration to kick me out of th hospital.
In 1996, the Medical Board of North Carolina asked a very senior experienced ob-gyn (he was African-American) physician from Charlotte, Dr. Kenneth Chambers (brother of Hon. Julius Chambers, an icon of Charlotte's civil rights scene) to review my cases. He had worked at Novant (Presbyterian) Hospital for a very long time. He and many other independent reviewers found my charts to be absolutely within the standard of care. Their affidavits are enclosed on this website. Why the hospital would not accept the review done by the highest medical authority in the state of NC, shows the extreme bad faith of the hospital.
According to a letter circulated by Dr. Jared Schwartz in October 1998 among the Novant hospital’s medical staff, I was the first physician to be suspended in 20 years at Presbyterian (now Novant) hospital! Was it just a coincidence that I was the first ob-gyn physician of Indian origin at Novant (Presbyterian) hospital? I found out many medical malpractice cases against other doctors at Novant Hospital. These facts are true to the best of my knowledge.
SERIOUS ACTS OF OTHER DOCTORS (as accurate as possible from public sources)
Dr. W Wortman injured a patient’s bladder at a laparoscopy. The jury found him negligent and awarded the Plaintiff $100,000. (92-CVS-16674)
Dr. K Baker performed a laparscopic surgery in October 1993 at Union Memorial Hospital. An injury to the intestine was not recognized at this time. Patient presented later with abdominal abscess and died. (Union County 95 CVS 01325) Dr. Baker performed another laparoscopy in November 1994 at which time a bowel perforation was not recognized. She died of sepsis. (Union County, 96 CVS 00992) Novant (Presbyterian hospital) had no problem subsequently giving Dr. Baker privileges in ob-gyn department.
Dr. D Whitesides performed a laser laparoscopy on a patient in 1995 (99- CVS-5141). The patient complained of abdominal pain on December 2 and 3, the physician prescribed stool softener. On December 4, she passed out and the husband had to carry her. An exploratory laparotomy and hemicolectomy was done. Suit also named Nalle clinic.
Dr. C Ellington performed a laser laparoscopy in September 1991 on a patient and perforated her small bowel. She underwent multiple subsequent surgeries and became unable to eat and drink. She was placed on TPN (intravenous nutrition). The suit also named Bradford Clinic and PHAC. (94-CVS-11679)
Dr. J Tidwell performed a laparoscopy on a patient who died from overwhelming sepsis six days later. (97-CVS-1707) Dr. Tidwell also failed to respond to nurse’s pages for another patient in labor in August 1989. The infant suffered severe physical and neurological injuries. (92-CVS-11209)
Dr. A Lewis failed to manage fetal distress during labor in 1992, the parties named (Dr. Lewis and Mintview ob-gyn) settled for $2M in May 1995.
Drs. M Torres and K Stephens were performing a hysterectomy at Presbyterian hospital, while managing a labor patient at Carolinas Medical Center in September 1995. They failed to respond to fetal distress in time. The baby was born with zero apgars and died 16 hours after birth.(96-CVS-9576)
Dr. W Mcdonald failed to assess fetal distress in February 1987. The result was severe physical and neurological injuries. (96-CVS-7927).
Dr. Alice Teague delayed performing a c/section after unsuccessful vacuum extraction of a baby with much fundal pressure. The baby was born with birth asphyxia and skull fracture. The jury awarded Plaintiff 23.2 million. Novant hospital settled separately for $6M. (95-CVS-13212)
NOVANT (PRESBYTERIAN) HOSPITAL SINGLED ME OUT
These cases (all collected from public records) are only the tip of the iceberg of adverse events involving Novant (Presbyterian) Hospital physicians. I know of no peer review or disciplinary action against these (Caucasian) physicians by the hospital. They kept on practicing at Novant (Presbyterian) hospital. Some are still there. In fact, some of them sat in my judgment. Additionally, Novant (Presbyterian) had no problem rehabilitating Drs. William Verross and Larry Craddock disciplined by NC Medical Board for sexual misconduct with their patients!
I don't have anything against Caucasian or any race in general, but I can not help getting the feeling that I was lynched by a gang of 8 Caucasian men at Presbyterian Hospital.
In 1996, my lawyer filed a state court case for breach of the by-laws. The African-American Judge Marcus Johnson ruled that the hospital breached its by-laws and ordered a new review in accordance with the by-laws.
Novant hospital started a new review, ordered by the court, using outside reviewers, but then suppressed their findings!
They subjected me to yet another internal review, again using 5 Caucasian male ob-gyn doctors (talk about good ole white boys' club) under their control, who conveniently found 25 of my charts to be problematic. However, 10 of these charts were different from the original 24 charts! So much for the arbitrary nature of the peer review findings at the hospital. The Hospital has simply not given me an independent and impartial review as allowed under their own by-laws and as is customary in the hospitals under such circumstance!
In 1998, after the letter from Dr. Schwartz circulated in Novant hospital, I realized that I was targeted because of my ethnicity. In January 1999, I filed a discrimination case in the federal court. The hospital attorneys dragged the case for so long that the original judge died. A new judge was assigned.
However, out of nowhere, Judge Mullen ( I believe, with ulterior motives) appeared and grabbed the case from the new judge. He kicked out my federal lawsuit stating that I should have pleaded discrimination in the original state court case in 1996! At that time, I had no evidence of discrimination! So much for spending eleven long years in the courts and two million dollars in legal fees! Novant hospital purposely destroyed my life and career for ever! So "their own" docs thrive without competition!
When North Carolina Medical Board found my Novant hospital cases meeting the standard of care, they promised to help me. But after Novant lawyers went behind the scenes and improperly influenced the Board against me, the help never materialized. Charlotte Medical Society, North Carolina Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, American Association of Physicians of Inida Origin (AAPI), Hindu Center of Charlotte, Sikh Heritage Society of Greater Charlotte and others have all pleaded strongly with the hospital to reinstate and compensate me but the hospital has not budged from its unconscionable position!
A petition signed by almost 500 prominent citizens and physicians from the local area and across the globe has been submitted to the hospital. A link to the the petition appears in the headlines above. Please sign and enter comments against the egregiously shabby behavior of the hospital!
LONG HISTORY OF RACISM AND SEGREGATION AT NOVANT HOSPITAL
If you get the book called "Presbyterian Hospital - The Spirit of Caring", it will open your eyes. Of course, we know that Novant bought Presbyterian hospital in the 1990's and changed its name to Novant. Anyway, the book is full of picture of white people. On page 162, you can see 30 lily white nurses lined up for a two page spread of a picture.
On page 159, the book reads - "From the day it was founded in 1903, "Presbyterian Hospital was a "whites only" hosptial. Until the 1960's, all of Charlotte hospitals were segregated. Charlotte Memorial Hosptial announced its open admission polity in 1963. But Novant (then Presbyterian) Board of Trustees voted unanimously in 1963 not end the segregation.
Novant hosptial ended segregation in March 1965 but still refused to comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and became one of the few hospitals in the nation to refuse to do so. Because of this, all government funds to Novant Hospital were cut. Only because of fhe extreme financial pressure, Novant Hospital signed the pledge to comply with the civil rights act in April 1966.
Even then, the hospital operated like a country club. In the early 1990's, about 30% of hospital patient population was minority but only 2% of physician population was minority.
POWER ELITE AT NOVANT HOSPITAL
After I filed a suit alleging discrimination, the Novant hospital reluctantly woke up to the idea of diversity. They started sending their employees to diversity workshops. They started welcoming minority physicians with open arms. But they do not even think about rehabilitating my destroyed career and life! I have struggled for 21 years but have been cast aside..
I and my daughter met up with Mr. Mark Billings, then CEO of Novant Hospital on June 1, 2011. He asked me to give him a concrete proposal to resolve my differences with Novant hospital. I did that promptly but did not hear anything from Novant hospital.
I protested in front of Novant hosptial in October and November of 2011, I was intimedated and driven away by the security guards at the hospital. So much for my first amendment rights! Mr. Nick Nanda personally brought the petition, signed by more than 200 people, to the novant hospital in December 2011. Mr. Jay Kumar again sent the petition to the hospital in 2012 for fairness and justice. My mother wrote the Board of Trustees of Novant hospital. Nobody heard back any acknowledgement or response from the hospital. This is so wrong!
Ms. Jennfer Roberts (now Charlotte mayor) spoke to the hospital in 2014. Corine Mack, Charlotte NAACP president, met with the hospital in 2015. But the cold hearted Novant corporation has not budged to do the right thing. I have become marginalized in the community at many levels. The hospital has spent $6 million of people's money to keep a good doctor out while it is hiding some very questionable doctors in its ranks.
I implore all responsible organizations, media, community leaders, politicians and individuals to step up and intervene to reverse this travesty of justice. There are two very serious problems here - one is egregious systemic discrimination under the pretext of protecting the public. Novant went out of its way to purposely and viciously destroy my life. They used their influence on the Medical Board and Judge Mullen to deny me plain fairness and justice.
The other one is abuse of peer review - the hospitals can basically do anything using the confidentiality of peer review. They can and do use peer review to hide the skeletons of "their own" doctors. The hospitals represent to the public that they are watching their own, but in reality, they are only letting questionable doctors practice. Peer review is essentially a sweet heart deal by which the hospitals control the practice of medicine and get away with poor medical practice. This is not in the best interest of public health.
Peer review should not be a tool for hospitals to keep the bad doctors they like and good doctors they do not. Novant hospital has gotten away with murder! Please call CEO of Novant Hospital at 704-384-4000 and tell him to reinstate a competent doctor and compensate him for his 21 years of suffering. I need to be integrated into the productive pool of physicians of Novant hospital. Thank you for speaking up for justice and good of public health!