Mason hospital adds doctor in wrongful death suit to staff

By Lawrence Smith | Apr 23, 2009

POINT PLEASANT - A Mason County hospital apparently has opened its doors to a South Charleston physician who's quality of care has been called into question multiple times in the last eight years.

Those allegations, records show, include not only being named twice in separate wrongful death suits in hospital emergency rooms, but also his privileges being revoked in 2001 from a state VA hospital.

Recently, The West Virginia Record reported on a lawsuit the family of a deceased Glasgow woman filed against Dr. M. Anwar Yahar Abdeen. In the complaint she filed as the administratrix of the estate of her mother, Pamela Campbell Smith, and in conjunction with her sister and father last month in Kanawha Circuit Court, Jamie Lee Davis alleged that Abdeen was responsible for Smith's death in 2006.

In their suit, Smith's family alleges that administrators at Montgomery General Hospital, where Abdeen worked at the time, knew his work had fallen below acceptable standards of care. Though he was demoted as director of MGH's emergency room, he continued to treat patients there, including Smith.

Specifically, the family alleges Abdeen failed to properly treat Smith's complaints of hypertension, headaches and vomiting after he examined her in MGH's ER the night of Oct. 13, 2006. Despite being prescribed medication for both her pain and nausea, she died early the next day.

Also, the suit makes reference to Abdeen being named as a defendant in another wrongful death of another Upper Kanawha Valley woman during the time he treated Smith. In that suit, Joshua M. Scott, of Belle, as executor of the estate of his mother, Lida, alleged Abdeen in 2004 did not properly treat her for a heart attack following her admission to the ER at St. Francis Hospital in Charleston.

Furthermore, the Smith lawsuit states that allegations of substandard care were leveled against Abdeen as early as 2001, the same year he was granted his West Virginia license, records show. On Sept. 1, Abdeen's employment was terminated and his privileges withdrawn from the Veteran's Medical Center in Huntington after he "substantially failed to meet generally accepted standards of clinical practice as to raise reasonable concern for the safety of patients," wrote the Center's acting director in a 2002 memorandum.

Now, according to the state Board of Medicine, Abdeen is practicing at Pleasant Valley Hospital in Point Pleasant. In December, Dr. Danny R. Westmoreland filed a lawsuit against both PVH and several other physicians in federal court alleging that they, without cause or provocation, revoked his privileges early last year.

Though his privileges have since been restored, Westmoreland, who's only lawsuit alleging malpractice against him was filed by an ex-in-law, and later dismissed for failing to serve him notice of the suit, says how both he and Abdeen have been treated by administrators is typical of PVH.

Problems pre-date WV licensure

According to the Board, prior to being granted his West Virginia license, Abdeen, now 45, graduated medical school in 1991 at the American University of Beirut's Faculty of Medicine in Lebanon. Five years later he completed his residency at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, N.Y.

Records show his West Virginia license was officially granted on Sept. 10, 2001, nine days after he was asked to leave the Huntington VA center due to substandard care. In his memo dated Nov. 1, 2002, Gale Beaman, the center's then-acting director, which was attached as an exhibit in the Smith family complaint, did not go into detail about Abdeen's quality of care except it was "evidenced by the occurrence of multiple diagnostic and treatment errors during his clinical performance as in internist."

Nevertheless, Beaman's memo which was addressed to the VA's general counsel, said "that there is substantial evidence to make a report to the Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee S[tate] L[icensing ] B[oards]" regarding Abdeen's lack of care. Abdeen's Tennessee license, records show, since the time of the memo has been inactive.

The only state to give Beaman's referral any serious consideration was Alabama, where Abdeen was also licensed at the time. Record show in August 2003, the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, based on Beaman's memo, announced its intention to contest Abdeen's request for reinstatement before the state's Medical Licensure Commission.

Though it unclear as to when, records show Abdeen's license "had previously lapsed for non-payment of the annual registration fee."

After a hearing, the Commission on Nov. 23, 2003 ruled that the grounds on which ABME was contesting Abdeen's reinstatement "insufficient", and ordered that he "be reissued a full license to practice medicine in Alabama." However, by the end of the year, Abdeen allowed his license to again lapse, and it has not been renewed since.

Records show, the only state where Abdeen has an active medical license, other than West Virginia, is Kentucky.

Red flags

In the lawsuit he filed on Aug. 10, 2006, Scott alleged that Abdeen failed to diagnose Lida's complaints of chest pain as a heart attack which resulted in her death on April 9, 2004. In addition to accusing Abdeen of wrongful death, Scott accused Mountain Emergency Physicians, L.L.P., a Traverse City, Mich.-based medical staffing company that served as Abdeen's employer, of negligent hiring and credentialing.

MEP, Scott alleged, knew Abdeen "was not board certified in Emergency Medicine, and did not have the proper training and experience in providing the necessary services to patients such as Lida Scott who presented with complaints of chest pain." According to the state Board's Web site, Abdeen specializes in internal medicine and nutrition.

On Jan. 31, 2007, records show Scott's lawsuit was dismissed after Abdeen's insurer, National Guardian Risk Retention Group, settled with the estate for $487,500.

Similar to Scott's, Smith's lawsuit makes a claim of wrongful death against Abdeen, and negligent hiring and credentialing against both MGH, and Emcare Physician Services, Inc., a Dallas, Texas-based medical staffing company that employed Abdeen. The family alleges that the problems with Abdeen's care that surfaced at the Huntington VA and St. Francis should have raised red flags.

However, the Smith family alleges the problems continued to manifest themselves when MGH was put "on notice that Defendant Abdeen was practicing below accepted standards of care prior to October 16, 2006," three days after Smith's death.

Standard procedure

When Abdeen came to PVH and what he is doing there is unclear as hospital spokeswoman Amy Leach did not return repeated telephone calls seeking a comment. However, when contacted Westmoreland said granting privileges to someone like Abdeen who's already proven to be a liability, while playing games with his, is standard for PVH.

"This is typical of the way I've been treated," Westmoreland said, "and its disgusts me."

Records show in all the years he's practiced in Mason County, one time was he sued for malpractice. On Sept. 4, 2001, Peggy Varney, as the administratrix of the estate Westmoreland's nephew, Shannon, named him as a co-defendant in a wrongful death suit.

Ironically, along with PVH and Jackson General Hospital, Varney's suit also named Dr. Shrikant K. Vaidya as a co-defendant. In addition his one for malpractice, Westmoreland has named Vaidya as a co-defendant in his privileges lawsuit.

In her suit, Varney, who is Westmoreland's ex-sister-in-law, alleges all the defendants failed to diagnose and treat Shannon for testicular cancer. According to the suit, he died on Sept. 4, 1999 at the age of 27.

The suit was dismissed two years later since none of the defendants where ever served. Also, records show, other than the complaint, nothing else was filed prior to a notice sent to Varney dated Aug. 1, 2003 by Judge David W. Nibert of his intention to dismiss he suit for failure to serve process.

According to Westmoreland, he never treated Shannon. The only role he played in Shannon's death was to pay for his funeral expenses.

The only reason he was named in the suit was because the attorney who helped Varney file the suit decided to list anybody associated with Shannon's name with the title of doctor.

"That's the thank you I got for being his uncle," Westmoreland said.

In any event, Westmoreland says allowing Abdeen onto PVH's staff in light of his checkered past will not only prove useful in his lawsuit, which is preparing to enter the discovery phase, but also vindicate him in his effort to see good doctors rewarded, and bad ones punished.

"I've actively worked to protect the area from bad doctors, and it is one of the reasons that I'm treated as an outcast by the medical community," Westmoreland said.

Kanawha Circuit Court, Case Nos. 06-C-1596 (Scott) and 09-C-443 (Smith); Mason Circuit Court, Case No. 01-C-299; U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, Case No. 08-cv-1444

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