Reusing Catheters Put Some NJ Patients in “Clear and Imminent Danger”

January 14, 2018 | Crandall & Pera Law
Reusing Catheters Put Some NJ Patients in “Clear and Imminent Danger”

Catheters are useful little tools. They’re small plastic tools used by medical professionals for an array of reasons: to measure, to drain, to give drugs, etc. They’re also disposable – on purpose. After all, do you really want a tube that has been in someone else’s stomach placed into your own? Yet reuse is exactly what one New Jersey doctor did. “Dr. Sanjiv K. Patankar, an East Brunswick-based colon and rectal surgeon, allegedly washed and reused the small, flexible catheters that are ‘inserted into patients' rectums during medical procedures,’" according to The news site reports that 82 procedures were conducted in Dr. Patankar’s office over the course of 11 months (from January 1st through November 30th). The total number of catheters ordered during that time? Five. The state Board of Medical Examiners ruled unanimously that Dr. Patankar’s actions “placed patients in clear and immediate danger,” and suspended his license as a result. A full hearing will be conducted, after which the Board will make a final ruling about how to proceed.

Suspending his license seems like an obvious choice – but it isn’t always that way

In this particular case, a temporary (and preferably full) revocation of Dr. Patankar’s license seems like a no-brainer. After all, simply washing a catheter does not make it sterile. What reusing catheters did was make it easier to spread infections. You might be surprised, then, at how often obviously negligent or abusive doctors, surgeons and other medical personnel are given no more than a pat on the wrist, or a fine, despite critical errors. A 2013 expose by USA TODAY uncovered thousands of cases where doctors lost their privileges at facilities, yet were allowed to keep their medical licenses: “Even the most severe misconduct goes unpunished: Nearly 250 of the doctors sanctioned by health care institutions were cited as an ‘immediate threat to health and safety,’ yet their licenses still were not restricted or taken away. About 900 were cited for substandard care, negligence, incompetence or malpractice — and kept practicing with no licensure action.” Most recently, and closest to home, is the story of a Cleveland Clinic surgeon who was allowed to continue practicing medicine despite rape accusations from two former patients. If this is not a stellar example of how often accusations of wrongdoing are covered up – or ignored – by hospitals, we don’t know what is.

Adverse actions on Ohio and Kentucky patients

For healthcare consumers, trying to find out whether your doctor is negligent or abusive can be challenging. The National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) keeps a running tally of how many adverse actions are reported each year in each state, and how many medical malpractice claims are actually paid out. Here are the 2016 numbers: Ohio  
    • 2,283 adverse action reports
        • 2,088 required state licensure “actions”
        • 28 involved clinical privilege and panel membership
        • 4 involved professional society membership
        • 12 involved drug enforcement administration
    • 216 malpractice payments were made
    • 888 adverse action reports
        • 779 required state licensure “actions”
        • 8 involved clinical privilege and panel membership
        • 9 involved drug enforcement administration
    • 118 malpractice payments were made
  (For more in-depth definitions of these terms, please see the NPDB’s Definitions and Terms.) It’s a good thing that the NJ Board is choosing to act. We wish it were a more common response to flagrant acts of negligence and to errors. Perhaps then, we would have a safer and more secure health system. Crandall & Pera Law is a premier medical malpractice law firm serving clients throughout Ohio and Kentucky. To learn more about our services, or to work with an experienced medical negligence attorney, please call our offices: 877-686-8879 in Kentucky, and 877-686-8879 in Ohio. You can also fill out our contact form to request a free initial consultation.