Hospital Panel Upholds Surgeon's Suspension

CLEVELAND (AP) - University Hospitals of Cleveland's internal review panel has upheld the suspension of a surgeon.

The suspension of Dr. Thomas Kirby, the chief lung transplant surgeon, resulted in UH also halting its lung transplant program.

The Clinical Council, a group composed of physicians, hospital executives and trustees, voted May 3 to uphold Kirby's suspension, The Plain Dealer reported Friday. The reasons are detailed in a letter to Kirby from Dr. Robert Daroff, chief of staff, who chairs the council.

Kirby denied most of the charges and disputed the accuracy of many of the specific incidents described, The Plain Dealer reported. "At least they haven't found out I'm a member of al-Qaida, and they haven't found any anthrax in my office yet," Kirby told the newspaper.

Kirby, a thoracic surgeon, continued to perform surgeries until his suspension April 26.

Gerald Messerman, a lawyer representing UH in the dispute, said Kirby's situation was thoroughly investigated before his suspension.

The suspension followed a Plain Dealer interview with the hospital system's officials about concerns that Kirby and others had raised about poor results in cardiac surgery. It came two days before a story detailing troubles in the cardiothoracic surgery division.

Last week, Kirby sued for damages and asked the court to order the hospital to reinstate him, at least until the appeals process at the hospital played out, so he could treat his patients. The court denied his request but scheduled a hearing on the case for next Friday.

Daroff's letter said Kirby had used foul language and verbally attacked physicians and staff members.

One female employee "was physically sick and anxious about coming to work every day because she never knew what you would do or say next," Daroff wrote.

Daroff also charges that Kirby violated policies barring sexual harassment, chilled discussions at the hospital by secretly recording messages and failed to attend quality-assurance meetings.

Daroff's letter also alleges Kirby violated rules requiring direct supervision of medical residents, who are physicians in training.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)