Kin ask why BC surgeon allowed to see patients despite claims of negligence IG News

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It was just a broken arm. Countless five-year-olds have had one, and in most cases, they recover after a few uncomfortable weeks in a cast or splint.

But when Max McKee broke his arm when he fell off a kitchen cabinet in 2006, that didn’t happen. His fracture was treated by Dr. Tracy Eugene Hicks, an orthopedic surgeon at Langley Memorial Hospital in B.C., who did not set the bones properly before placing them in a cast, leaving Mackie with a lifelong deformity. according to a court decision,

Now 21, when Mackey puts his right arm out to the side, his arm hangs at an awkward angle below the elbow, causing him regular pain and as much self-consciousness as a teenager. years to face.

“The job I’m doing right now, as an electrician, I’m constantly moving my arm, screwing in lightbulbs—anything that uses a screwdriver, it’s inconvenient, and on a daily basis,” he said. told CBC.

“There’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t fix it.”

A family photograph shows a short, shirtless white boy with brown hair and a blue cast on his right arm.  He's sitting on a couch in blue jeans, resting his injured hand on a white pillow.
Max McKee broke his arm when he fell from a kitchen cabinet at the age of five. (Stacy McKee)

Earlier this month, the BC Court of Appeal orders Hicks To pay more than $360,000 in damages for negligence in the treatment of McKee’s arm.

It was one of two judgments issued by BC courts in the span of only one month regarding Hicks’ medical negligence. hicks was found in another neglect his follow-up care To an old lady who had a broken hip, the cause of her months of pain,

These cases follow a long string of allegations of misconduct on the court throughout Hicks’ career. Patients and their families have raised concerns for decades, asking why Hicks was allowed to continue practicing, including a grieving mother who questions whether her actions played a role in her daughter’s death. Is.

McKee’s mother, Stacey, says that when she trusted Hicks for her son, she wished she had known about Hicks’ history.

“When you present at a hospital in an emergency, you don’t get to pick and choose who your doctor is,” she said.

“College [of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.] It is his duty, and also the hospital’s, to make sure that the person you are looking after is fit and capable.”

Through his attorneys, Hicks declined an interview for this story, and he did not answer an exhaustive list of questions about his history of negligence allegations.

A shirtless young white man is seen from behind, holding his right arm straight out to the side.  The arm bends downward at the elbow at an unnatural looking angle.
Max McKee’s disfigured right arm is shown in a recent photo. (Stacy McKee)

Court records show that by the time Max McKee arrived at the hospital in 2006, Hicks had already been named as a defendant in more than a dozen lawsuits.

he is involved a case where he performed unnecessary wrist surgery that left a patient with an “essentially … functionless” right hand and another in which he accidentally cut a vein “As big as a spaghetti noodle” during knee surgery.

In the last 10 years alone, seven civil suits accusing Hicks of harming patients have ended before trial by settlements between the parties that are not public.

His responses to most of those lawsuits denied any negligence, calling his treatment of patients appropriate and standard for the circumstances.

But in one case, Hicks admitted that he accidentally performed a hip replacement in 2016 on a woman who really needed a knee replacement.

no public record of discipline

Susan Raab, a medical malpractice attorney at Pacific Medical Law in Vancouver and assistant law professor at the University of BC, who has never acted for or against Hicks, confirmed that the number of negligence lawsuits against Hicks is more than an orthopedic surgeon. is “higher than normal” for the surgeon. ,

Raab told the CBC in an email that there is a disconnect between negligence findings in court — with legal expenses and damages often covered by the Canadian Medical Protection Association — and a doctor’s ability to practice.

He said it is up to the college to ensure that doctors in BC are qualified, competent and ethical.

“Where they have information that a practitioner is practicing in an incompetent, unsafe or unethical manner, they have an obligation to step in, investigate the circumstances and respond in a way that adequately protects the public.”

She said the college was sued in 2014 for failing to suspend Hicks’ license, but The claim was dismissed by a judge,

Hicks remains a fully licensed doctor in BC with no restrictions on his practice, according to the college’s website, which also shows no record of disciplinary action.

However, college spokeswoman Susan Prins told the CBC that Hicks had signed voluntary undertakings limiting his practice to assisting in surgery and working in an office-based setting. It is unclear when he signed off on the sanctions.

“None of these undertakings arose from discipline,” he wrote.

When asked whether the college was meeting its responsibility to protect the public, Prince said, “Banning the registrar’s practice is the right public safety measure.”

Records shared with the CBC confirm that Hicks received a formal reprimand from the college and signed a promissory note to stop fixing broken bones to children as a result of a complaint from Stacey McKee.

Earlier, a decision of the hospital appeals board Note that Hicks was placed on the college’s provisional register in 1993 on conditions that required him to undergo psychotherapy and work under the supervision of a mentor. It is unclear when those restrictions were lifted.

Prince explained that under BC law, none of these measures meet the bar for public notification.

latest version of Blue Book of the Province shows Hicks billed $241,686 for public health insurance in 2021-2022.

However, a spokeswoman for the health authority said it no longer has surgical privileges at Langley Memorial or any of the Fraser Health area hospitals.

‘His career should have ended’

A full 23 years earlier, Hicks’ history of recklessness was the subject of a front-page exposé by Vancouver Sun reporter Rick Austen. Hicks also didn’t agree to an interview for that story, but his attorney told the newspaper that he had performed about 30,000 surgeries at the time and had many grateful patients.

At the center of that inquiry was the death in 1997 of 17-year-old Heidi Klompus, whose legs were broken when a drunk driver hit a group of teenagers at Stokes Pit in Surrey.

When Klompas was taken to Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock, Hicks was the orthopedic surgeon on call for emergencies.

The girl’s mother, Katherine Adamson, still questions whether Hicks is partially responsible for Klompas’ death because he did not appear at the hospital until nearly seven hours after he was asked to come in.

“It’s been 25 years since my daughter died,” Adamson said in a recent interview. “His career should have ended right then and there, but he keeps on going.”

Two pages of the Vancouver Sun are featured in grainy black-and-white newspaper print.  The headline spans both pages and reads, 'Langley surgeon leaves trail of malpractice suit.'  The spread includes four photographs showing Dr. Tracy Hicks and three former patients.
Dr. Tracy Hicks is pictured at left in the Vancouver Sun on November 11, 2000 in an investigation into medical negligence allegations. (Vancouver Sun/

The 1999 coroner’s report assigns no blame for the death, but says that the proximate cause was something called a fat embolism, which led to a seizure that put Klompas in a coma for the rest of her short life.

Fat embolism is a rare and sometimes fatal condition where fat from the bone marrow leaks into the blood after the bones break down. The coroner’s report states that the best prevention for fat embolism is prompt treatment of long bone fractures.

The report states that the emergency physician present on the night of the accident told the coroner that he made four calls to Hicks, expressing “extreme concern” that Klompas needed an assessment. A nurse on duty confirmed that version of events, but Hicks said he could only remember one phone call.

look | CBC News reports on Heidi Klompas’ death after the 1999 coroner’s report:

CBC reports on Heidi Klompas death in 1999 story

In this archival story reported by CBC News’ Belle Purie, Katherine Adamson reacts to the release of the coroner’s report about her daughter’s death.

The coroner’s report stated that Klompas had died of blood loss a few weeks after the accident, when his tracheostomy tube had punctured an artery in his neck.

Adamson said she will never know for sure whether her daughter would have survived the quick healing of her broken legs.

“I’m disappointed in our medical system,” she said.

Adamson also filed a complaint about Hicks with the college, but it was dismissed in a letter saying that “there was no need for Dr. Hicks to attend the hospital immediately.”

A man wearing a Robins Egg blue cardigan is shown holding an open book.  The pages show a number of color photographs of various stages in a girl's life.
Katherine Adamson pages through photos in ‘Heidi Dawn Klomps: Missed Opportunities,’ a book she wrote about the death of her daughter, at her home on Friday, March 24, 2023, in Richmond, BC. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Malpractice attorney Raab pointed out that in addition to the college’s public safety role, health officials can also limit a doctor’s ability to practice by revoking hospital privileges.

Hospital Appeal Board decisions show that Langley Memorial Hospital And Shanti Chaap Hospital The two attempted to restrict Hicks’ privileges several times over the years, with mixed results.

The most recent case was decided in 2013 when Board upholds Fraser Health’s decision to remove Hicks from the Peace Ark’s regular emergency on-call schedule.

In the end, though, both the McKees and Adamson say they feel frustrated by all the systems designed to prevent doctors from harming themselves.

“These people have a duty to protect the public, and I don’t think they’ve done a very good job in this situation,” said Stacy McKee.