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VA pays $950,000 after Iowa surgeon operates in South Carolina

Early this year, the Department of Veterans Affairs agreed to settle a medical lawsuit involving a Des Moines surgeon with an Iowa medical license.

According to the suit, the surgeon was operating in the veterans’ hospital in Columbia, South Carolina, when his work caused injuries to a Navy veteran.

Des Moines surgeon operated in Columbia, South Carolina

In general, doctors must be licensed to practice medicine by the state in which they’re practicing medicine. Medical licenses aren’t usually transferrable from state to state and the Iowa surgeon wasn’t licensed in South Carolina.

But Veterans Affairs hospitals are an exception. Doctors with a valid license in any state in America are eligible to apply for work as a physician in VA hospitals nationwide.

A probation and fine in Iowa but no suspension

The VA hospital system is prohibited from hiring doctors with suspended or revoked licenses. And although the Iowa Board of Medicine placed the doctor on probation in October 2015 and levied a fine against him for incompetence and disruptive behavior, they didn’t suspend his license and they didn’t revoke it.

Within less than two months, the VA in Columbia, South Carolina, had already hired the Iowa doctor. That same December, the doctor operated on a Navy veteran to relieve a blocked artery to his leg. The operation was a failure, according to the lawsuit, resulting in the need for further treatment of severe pain and other complications.

“I was basically gutted like a fish,” the veteran told the Des Moines Register.

The doctor still denies any wrongdoing in either Iowa or South Carolina, notwithstanding the Iowa Board of Medicine’s disciplinary actions and the success of the veteran’s malpractice suit, in which the VA agreed to pay the veteran $950,000 in damages.

New initiative eases and oversees multistate medicine

Note that recent initiative to make it easier for doctors to practice in multiple states is gaining traction.

Known as the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC), the program is designed to ease the rural healthcare shortage, in part by easing multistate licensing of doctors. IMLC facilitates practicing telemedicine, providing virtual medical visits via the internet while patient and physician may be many hundreds of miles apart.

IMLC was not at issue and not a factor in the malpractice suit involving the Iowa doctor.

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