MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE: State’s Charges Could Lend Credence To HMO Case
A doctor involved in a "landmark lawsuit on HMO care," is now being accused of "gross negligence and incompetence for alleged unnecessary treatments." The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Medical Board of California filed the accusation recently against Dr. Robert Profumo, a digestive disease specialist who once worked at Children's Hospital in Kearny Mesa. The medical board is looking into three cases -- one of which involved a boy's death -- where patients' intestines were perforated after Profumo conducted a diagnostic procedure that was "not medically necessary." Profumo's quality of care was also called into question in a "highprofile" court case involving Dr. Thomas Self. In that case, Self contended that he was fired from Children's Associated Medical Group for "spending too much time with patients." Further, Self said he was replaced by Profumo, who he contended was a "less-experienced specialist ... who rapidly performed a large number of procedures to generate fees." Self won a $2.5 million settlement in the case -- the first to take place under a new state law "intended to shield physicians from retaliation for seeking appropriate treatment for patients."
But the Union-Tribune reports that the findings of the medical board "may add to the importance of the Self case and buttress allegations made during his trial." Sherry Bahrambeygui, an attorney for Self, said, "The accusation by an independent agency substantiates that the (Children's Associated Medical Group) was not focused on quality of care, (but) in fact emphasized profits rather than patients." But medical group and hospital officials "deny any improper conduct," saying they "were very diligent in the quality-assurance process that addressed Profumo's care." In addition, Children's Hospital Vice President Margarita Norton noted that the hospital and medical group treat a large number of poor children. "One of the relationships the hospital enjoys with Children's Associated Medical Group is sharing a similar mission in treating all children regardless of their ability to pay. If this is a truly greedy group, that isn't a pattern of greed." Profumo's case will be addressed at an administrative hearing by the medical board; his California medical license could be "revoked, suspended or placed on probation" depending on the board's decision (Dalton, 10/26).