Parkway Hospital probed for unauthorized surgeries

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A Forest Hills hospital and two of its doctors are under investigation by the state for their role in unauthorized surgery on 24 mentally ill patients from Elmhurst’s Leben Home for Adults, The New York Times reported this week.

The patients, who suffered from a variety of mental disorders including schizophrenia, manic depression and severe alcoholism were brought to Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills and submitted to prostate surgery although their conditions had not been confirmed nor had their families sanctioned the procedures, The Times said.

The two Parkway doctors who were involved with the surgery, Dr. Jamile Peress and Dr. Harry Josifidis, were subsequently reprimanded by the state Department of Health, the paper said.

Dr. Frank Mazzagatti, senior vice president for administration, at Parkway Hospital said the hospital was not in a position to comment on whether the surgery was unnecessary or whether valid consent was obtained.

“We are cooperating fully with the Department of Heath and any other regulatory agencies in terms of providing certificates, X-rays and laboratory data obtained related to the care of the patients,” Mazzagatti told the Times-Ledger. “We’ve retained that spirit of cooperation throughout the inquiry.”

The patients’ hourlong operation involved being placed under full anesthesia while having tissue shaved from their prostates. Health officials charged that the patients were essentially used in an “assembly-line technique to mass-produce surgery,” which would generate tens of thousands of dollars in Medicaid and Medicare fees for the hospital and one of the doctors, the New York Times said.

Six of the 24 patients, who range from barely middle-aged to 80, suffered complications from the surgery, the newspaper said, and most do not understand what happened to them.

During an investigation emergency room doctors and nurses expressed surprise when they learned that two of the patients had arrived at the hospital with consent forms already signed, the paper said.

Parkway Hospital procedures generally stipulate that consent forms are to be signed only at the hospital after a doctor has discussed the operation with the patient. At Peress’ request, an aide at the home helped the residents fill out the forms, according to the findings of the state inquiry, the paper said.

The charges against the Leben home came to light this month when a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Leben patients by MFY Legal Services, Disability Advocates and Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler.

During the same period, the state revoked the medical license of the urologist who arranged the surgeries and suspended the license of the surgeon who performed them, the paper said.

Mazzagatti said Peress is no longer a member of the Parkway Hospital staff and that while Josifidis, a volunteer physician, is currently on staff, he is prohibited from performing surgery.

“We are still — actually as recently as yesterday — turning over any related documents for any of the patients in question,” Mazzagatti said. “And we will maintain that posture.”

Reach reporter Jennifer Warren by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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