A respected surgeon who allegedly became involved in a physical confrontation with family members of a University Medical Center patient has been barred from seeing trauma patients at the hospital.
In an Aug. 8 letter to Dr. John J. Fildes, medical director of UMC trauma services, hospital CEO Kathleen Silver said she became aware of allegations that Dr. James Tate was involved in the physical altercation. She went on to say that Tate might pose an "unreasonable danger to UMC patients, visitors, employees and medical staff."
To minimize the chance of placing others in harm’s way "if the allegations against Dr. Tate are true," Silver asked Fildes to remove Tate from the trauma department call schedule. Fildes acted upon Silver’s concerns the same day, taking him off the call schedule.
Tate, who has worked at UMC for more than 20 years, is irate. He said 70 percent of his income comes from seeing trauma patients.
"Haven’t they ever heard of due process?" said Tate, who is still allowed to do general surgery at the hospital. "The UMC administration hasn’t even talked to me. The patient’s family began the physical altercation, and I simply pushed them away. UMC didn’t like that."
UMC spokeswoman Cheryl Persinger said Monday that hospital administrators could not comment either on the actions taken against Tate or on letters sent to him, which he made available to the Review-Journal.
Tate raised another possibility for the hospital’s action.
"I came out so strong against (Dr. Dipak) Desai and now this is payback."
Tate has been one of the few physicians in Las Vegas to be openly critical of Desai, whose clinics have been linked to a cluster of hepatitis C cases in Southern Nevada.
Tate told the Review-Journal in March that only an independent agency from outside Nevada could be trusted to do an investigation because of Desai’s "network of influential relationships."
Desai and his gastroenterology group received a $1 million contract in 2007 to direct UMC’s gastroenterology department, more than quadruple the $210,000 they had received for the same work at UMC in 2006.
UMC canceled its contract in March with Desai.
"The top UMC administrators loved Desai," Tate said. "They gave him whatever they wanted and now they’re embarrassed."
Dr. Maurice D. Gregory Jr, a vice president of the local chapter of the Association of Black Physicians, said Monday that what happened to Tate constitutes "a modern-day lynching."
"He should never have been suspended from the trauma schedule," Gregory said in a written statement to hospital officials. "Any/all suspension or privileges limitations should always be in effect after proper medical executive committee review due process."
In his letter to Tate informing him of his removal from the trauma department call schedule, Fildes noted he was doing so because of Silver’s account.
The physical confrontation involving Tate occurred the day after he first treated a teen victim of an auto accident.
According to Tate, on Aug. 5 the father and grandmother of a 14-year-old boy wanted to begin skin grafts immediately on skin ripped on pavement during the auto accident. Tate said he told the family it would be better to see how the "road burns" healed and that grafts may not be necessary.
He said he did tell the family, however, that the nursing staff could put him in touch with burn care specialists.
As Tate was leaving the room, he said the boy’s father was very agitated and yelled: "This is my child."
Tate said he then replied: "Yes, I understand that’s your child, but do you really think your behavior right now is helping your child?"
After he had walked about 20 feet down the hallway, Tate said, the boy’s father used an obscenity to refer to him, also calling him "ignorant and arrogant."
"Yo’ mama," Tate said he replied.
Tate said the father rushed down the hall toward him, his chest bumping Tate’s chest.
"He was less than 1 inch away from my face and was touching me. I told him, ‘You really ought to back off.’ He refused, so in a defensive movement I pushed him away from me. That is a right I reserve to defend myself against anyone who attacks me."
Tate said the boy’s grandmother then bumped him "and she was pushed back also."
"At this point, one of the nurses who had not bothered to intervene previously decided to get in between the two of us and the resident and I continued our departure," Tate said.
At noon Monday, four of Tate’s supporters met with him at the Seven Seas Restaurant and Lounge owned by Louis Conner.
Conner and his wife, Judye, along with businessmen John Edmond and Asfaw Tesfay were astounded that UMC brass hadn’t met with Tate before taking a job action.
"You always have to get both sides of a story," said Edmond.
Tate thinks he knows why UMC administrators didn’t want to meet with him.
"I told them I’d meet with them any time as long as my attorney was present," he said. "They didn’t like that. But I think in this country that’s my right."
Contact reporter Paul Harasim at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2908.