Dr. Alexander M. Ortolano, an obstetrician and gynecologist who faces at seven medical negligence lawsuits and whose license was restricted by the state last year, has closed his Richland, Washington practice, Arbor Healthcare for Women.
Amid allegations of performing unnecessary procedures and substandard care, Dr. Ortolano’s license was suspended in July 2015. A 20-page document stated that he “committed a high volume of malpractice and patient abuse” and represented “an immediate danger to the public health and safety.” Court documents also say that medical records show patients of his suffered damage to their uterus, including at least three hysterectomies and at least one trip to the ICU. Records also show Ortolano delivered an unusually high number of babies. At one time even leaving a C-section patient under anesthesia and in surgery to go deliver another baby. Attorney Kristina McKennon, who is representing at least three plaintiffs, says unnecessary procedures are the reason one of her clients needed a hysterectomy in her 20’s, taking away the woman’s ability to have children and forcing her to undergo more medical treatment. Other plaintiffs also allege that the doctor performed botched procedures that required them to receive hysterectomies. While the motive for the unnecessary services and procedures isn’t known, “one effect was that these services increased the amount of potential financial reimbursement,” documents said. But, this the suspended license isn’t what cause Dr. Ortolano to close the doors. The suspension actually only lasted a few months. It was lifted provided that Ortolano met numerous conditions, from completing clinical competence and professional assessments to being supported by a second opinion for surgeries. He was also subject to four years of oversight by the state Medical Quality Assurance Commission.
So why did he close the doors and where is Dr, Ortolano now? Let’s hope he did not follow the footsteps of Dr. Stan Konasiewicz (Dr. K) and flee to Texas where lax oversight and an unjustly reformed legal system will allow him to freely practice medicine rather than be held accountable for his negligent actions. As I revealed in a post on Dr. K, the Texas Medical Board (TMB) is not required to disclose cases of medical malpractice when a doctor moves from another state. In fact, they are not required to even look into cases. The responsibility to disclose malpractice cases rests solely on the doctor. How many doctors do you think would openly report their own medical negligence, especially one with a history of committing malpractice? Not Dr. K. and surely not Dr. Ortolano. Without a paper trail, patients are left in the dark and as a result there will be more innocent victims of their negligence.
Despite the laundry list of evidence against Dr. Ortolano, it will be nearly impossible for victims to seek the justice they deserve. Why? Because medical malpractice tort reform substantially reduces fair settlements. There is no reason, none, to immunize doctors from the damage they cause due to negligence. Taking away the rights of patients injured by negligent doctors will do nothing to improve health care; study after study has shown that tort reform does not lower a doctor’s insurance costs. The cost of health care in the US continues to rise despite tort reform; it is an unmitigated failure and thousands of victims are suffering in its wake. It is time that America stood up for the rights of the victim.
Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.