Local heart surgeon wins legal battle with Memorial Hermann Hospital

A Houston surgeon won his case against Memorial Hermann Hospital after he was concerned about patient safety.

HOUSTON – A heart surgeon won legal battle with one of the best hospital systems in the country. 

Dr. Miguel Gomez, III dragged Memorial Hermann through Texas small and supreme courtrooms. After four years, he won $6.4 million.

Yet, he is in pieces barely holding it together like the diploma on his wall.

“Once they damage your reputation, people lose confidence in you,” said Dr. Gomez.

His grandfather, also named Miguel, left Cuba during its revolution as a med school valedictorian.

Since the government banned him from taking his degree or mailing it to Miami, loved ones shipped it piece by piece through Spain.

Six years later, Miguel, Sr. earned his permit to heal. That commitment inspired his grandson.

“My grandpa was tough and he would have fought the battle I fought,” said Dr. Gomez. “I have no doubt.”

Memorial Hermann Hospital hired Dr. Gomez as a surgeon in their renowned Memorial City Heart and Vascular Institute.

For 15 years, he made headlines then quit his dream job over something hard for him to say in public.

“I saw them placing business and profits before patient care,” said Dr. Gomez.

He claims administrators pushed some people to do jobs they never trained for and did not always supply operating rooms with enough or the right equipment.

He complained about it. He lost patients, he said. Instead of performing one to two surgeries a day, he performed one or two a week. 

In their judgement, jurors blamed Memorial Hermann administrators for targeting him in peer reviews and crushing his reputation with misleading stats on his patients dying, court documents said.

In a statement, a hospital spokesperson called the ruling “disappointing.”

“While we have the utmost respect for the judicial process, Memorial Hermann is disappointed with Wednesday’s verdict. At trial, Dr. Gomez questioned the System’s quality review process, expressing concerns that he was unfairly targeted because his mortality data was misleading and made him look bad.

However, our focus on quality data has never been about singling out one specific physician or physicians; rather we rely on that data to form the basis for our process, the same process widely accepted and utilized nationwide, to evaluate and improve the quality of care provided by our physicians and hospitals.

While we had hoped the jury would recognize this important distinction, the process we began in 2009 has helped get the System to where it is today. 

In 2012, Memorial Hermann became the first health System in Texas to be awarded the prestigious Eisenberg Patient Safety Award, an award presented by the National Quality Forum and The Joint Commission which recognized us as leaders in delivering safe, effective health care with a patient-centered focus.

We are proud of our employees and affiliated and private physician partners, who helped make this achievement possible and have consistently followed best practices to continuously improve patient safety and quality.

Nowhere is this perhaps more evident than at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center, which today ranks among the best cardiovascular surgery programs in the country. Over the last several years, the Medical Center has earned the top three-star rating from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons on more occasions than any other hospital in Houston, based on public reporting.

A three-star recognition means a facility is in the top 7 to 8 percent of hospitals nationally and is the highest possible rating a facility can receive for cardiovascular surgery.

The purpose of reviewing quality data was not to hurt Dr. Gomez but to improve patient safety, which it did and continues to do today and, going forward, the System will continue to take the steps necessary to ensure our patients are receiving the safest care possible. This verdict will not change that.”

The hospital system still boasts the highest possible rating for cardiovascular surgery and patient safety awards. It matters little to Dr. Gomez.

Though he works with another hospital, his reputation remains scarred, he said.  Dr. Gomez does not know when his business will recover. However, his family history suggests it is just a matter of time.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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