Friday, January 26, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, January 26, 2001

Fired doctor sues Kaiser, alleges 'inconsistent' care

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

An anesthesiologist has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Kaiser Permanente, saying she was fired because she disagreed with a hospital policy that she said resulted in "substandard care" of patients.

Dr. Stacie Wong filed the Circuit Court suit yesterday seeking an unspecified amount of damages against Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. and Hawaii Permanente Medical Group Inc.

Kaiser spokesman Chris Pablo yesterday said the hospital had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment.

Wong, a board-certified anesthesiologist who signed a one-year contract with Kaiser in October 1999, alleges that her contract was terminated because she disagreed with Kaiser’s policies on anesthesia services.

In her lawsuit, Wong accused Kaiser of having two standards of care for anesthesia services.

If an operation is held on weekdays before 3 p.m., an anesthesiologist will be present at the Kaiser Moanalua facility to supervise certified registered nurse anesthetists, the suit says. But if an operation is after 3 p.m. or on weekends, the suit says, an anesthesiologist does not have to be at the operative procedure.

Wong contends that this conflicts with guidelines of the American Society of Anesthesiologists and also Kaiser’s written policies and consent forms that are given to Kaiser patients.

Wong accused Kaiser of requiring the supervising anesthesiologist to certify the surgical record, even if he or she was not at the operation. She said she was fired for insisting that she be present to supervise anesthesia services, and for writing a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services objecting to a proposed federal rule change that would allow nurses to administer anesthesia without supervision.

Wong said she hoped the lawsuit would force Kaiser to change its practices.

"What Kaiser does is inconsistent with standards of practice for the proper and safe administration of anesthesia," Wong said. "The practice of having the supervising anesthesiologist not physically present raises serious quality of care issues at Kaiser Moanalua."

Attorney Thomas Grande, who filed the suit on behalf of Wong, added, "Kaiser is telling its patients that doctors are administering the anesthesia services. In fact, the services in some instances are being performed by nurses not supervised by on-site anesthesiologists."

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