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Editorial: Parkway gets off easy

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In what the state is cheerily calling the “final chapter in this case,” the Health Department has levied a $32,000 fine against Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills for allowing two surgeons to perform unnecessary surgery on 12 patients from a nearby nursing home. This is chump change. Parkway is lucky that the state didn’t close its doors forever.

The surgeries in question all took place in 1998. The 12 patients were residents of the Leben Home for Adults in Elmhurst. It now appears certain that these men did not give “informed consent” for the surgery, if they gave consent at all. In fact, some of the patients had no idea why they were being hospitalized. The Leben Home for Adults has lost its operating license and MediSys Health Network Inc. has been installed as operator of the home.

Parkway was cited with 16 violations and fined $32,000, the maximum fine allowed by law. The New York State Board for Professional Medical conduct revoked the license of one of the surgeons and suspended the license of the other. That's a good first step, but in this case the punishment does not meet the severity of the offense. If these doctors actually did unnecessary surgery, taking advantage of the patients’ reduced mental capacity, then these doctors should be looking at criminal charges.

Whether it be in a group home, a nursing home or hospital, those who have been given responsibility for the mentally disabled should be held to the highest possible standard.

We are horrified at the thought that a doctor might perform surgery solely for financial gain. According to the report issued by the state, none of the victims had a medical history that demonstrated a need for prostate surgery. How is possible that no one at Parkway Hospital questioned why 12 men from the same nursing home were scheduled for the same type of surgery? Parkway is not a giant hospital and 12 is not an insignificant number.

In prepping these poor men for surgery, how is it possible that no one on the hospital staff noticed that there was no medical history indicating the need for the surgery? This is beyond sloppy.

We are concerned that the punishment – the fines levied against the hospital and the suspension of the licenses of the nursing home and the surgeons – is not sufficiently severe to discourage others from taking advantage of the disabled in the future.

If this is even half as bad as it looks, the punishment does not fit the crime.

Is it party time or your time?

There are 93 candidates running for 14 city council seats in Queens. Some 100 Queens residents declared their intention to run, but several were unable to collect enough signatures to get their name on the ballot and others simply dropped out. Not surprisingly, most of the candidates are running in the Democratic primary.

The Queens Democratic Party bosses are not happy. Mike Reich, the executive secretary for the Democratic machine, explained to our reporter that there are too many candidates. “How can voters make a rational choice when they have to cut through all that gobbledygook?” he asks.

The real race is on now to disqualify the petitions of as many candidates as possible. So far 299 challenges to petitions have been raised. There are at least 35 reasons for challenging a petition, including illegible signatures. Getting past the petition hurdle is enormously difficult without the backing of the party machinery.

Still, we retain the hope that this fall will be the last hurrah for a political machine that has squeezed the life out of the democratic process in Queens. This is your election, not theirs.

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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