Published : Tuesday, December 11, 2018 | 5:45 AM
Huntington Hospital is promising self-examination in the wake of accusations brought by 20 women against an obstetrician they accuse of acts ranging from malpractice to sexual misconduct and the intentional infliction of injuries to his patients.
The hospital is forming a committee to review its policies and procedures in response to a story published Sunday by the Los Angeles Times regarding Dr. Patrick Sutton.
The Times investigation outlines a litany of accusations brought by the women. They date back to 1989, when Sutton first joined Huntington Hospital, and include sexual misconduct, malpractice leading to the death of an infant and intentionally maiming women’s genitals out of petty spite.
Sutton has denied any wrongdoing.
Huntington Hospital President and CEO Dr. Lori J. Morgan authored a letter responding to the situation Monday. It was posted on the hospital’s website.
“I first want you to know that he no longer practices at Huntington Hospital,” she wrote.
“Please know that I am deeply troubled by the allegations described in these reports. I am an administrator, but I am a clinician first. My highest duty is to ensure the safety and dignity of our patients,” Morgan’s letter said. “Every day, we work to earn the trust of the people we serve. Our directive in all situations is to put the patient in the center of the room when making a decision.”
The hospital has formed a “special committee to review policies and procedures designed to ensure the safety and dignity of our patients,” Morgan said.
The committee includes Morgan, hospital board members, and medical staff leadership, she added. It will be tasked with reviewing the hospital’s processes and procedures related to physician credentialing, among other issues.
All doctors at Huntington Hospital are credentialled when they first arrive, then re-credentialed every two years after, according to Morgan.
“The committee will be looking at best practices for our processes, education and requirements for both initial appointment and renewing membership and privileges,” she said.
Huntington Hospital has recently adopted a program it calls “Just Culture,” Morgan said. It focuses on that encourages employees to report any concerns “as part of the duty of all who provide care.”
“Again, as part of Just Culture, we will explore and address any concerns utilizing the defined processes of our rules, regulations and medical staff bylaws,” she said.
Huntington Hospital officials received repeated complaints about Sutton over the decades he’s worked at the hospital without taking action, current and former hospital administrators and other employees told the Times.
Sutton and the hospital have paid more than $2.75 million to settle a series of malpractice lawsuits dating back to the 1990s, according to the Times..
Morgan said in her letter that the hospital has an excellent record, overall.
“Huntington Hospital remains focused on patient safety and high-quality healthcare, demonstrated by our recent ‘A’ grade from the Leapfrog Group, placing us as one of the top hospitals in the region – and the country – in preventing medical harm and errors,” Morgan wrote. “Although we know there is still work left to do, we are proud of the excellent, safe care we provide – and are committed to meriting your trust for years to come.
“We recognize the deep trust that our patients place in us every day to safeguard their wellness,” the letter states. “Huntington Hospital is committed to developing and implementing best practices across our organization to ensure we have the right policies in place to support our patients, employees and physicians.”