The Washington Medical Commission also ruled that Delashaw, who was featured in a Seattle Times investigation about Swedish Health's neuroscience unit, must submit to three years of oversight and cannot be employed in a position of medical leadership.
The Washington Medical Commission has reinstated, with restrictions, the medical license of former Swedish Health neurosurgeon Dr. Johnny Delashaw.
The commission ruled on July 5 that Delashaw, who was featured in a Seattle Times investigation about Swedish Health’s neuroscience unit, must submit to three years of oversight and cannot be employed in a position of medical leadership. The commission also ordered Delashaw to pay a $10,000 fine, agree to be evaluated for disruptive behavior and comply with recommendations from the evaluators.
The commission summarily suspended Delashaw’s license in May 2017, saying he posed an “immediate threat to the public health and safety.” The commission said Delashaw had intimidated subordinates by yelling and swearing at them, creating a climate where staff members were reluctant to ask the type of questions needed to properly care for patients.
Delashaw appealed the suspension and argued his case in a nine-day hearing last spring.
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In an email, Delashaw’s attorney Amy Magnano said her client is “gratified that his license has been reinstated and that he will be able to resume his life’s work.”
The commission’s July 5 order said Delashaw’s “behavior negatively affected the culture of safety, ultimately replacing it with a culture of fear.” It added, “This led to a compromise of team effectiveness and, as a result, an unreasonable risk of patient harm.”
The commission also found evidence that Delashaw’s abrasive behavior led to an exodus of experienced nurses, further compromising patient safety.
The order says the three-member panel gave more credence to the testimony of multiple nurses who witnessed Delashaw’s outbursts than the surgeon’s very different accounts of the events.
In one instance, the document says, Delashaw slammed down a phone so hard it slid across the floor. In another, he shouted at a nurse who raised questions about the sterile techniques practiced by surgical fellows working under his supervision.
In deciding to reinstate Delashaw’s license, the order says the commission considered that he had no previous misconduct charges and has a long history of providing needed services.
A renowned physician, Delashaw was among the busiest brain and spine surgeons in the state during his tenure at Swedish. His patients resulted in tens millions of dollars in billings for the institution, according to state data.
Delashaw resigned as chair of the Swedish Neuroscience Institute in March 2017, less than three weeks after he was featured in The Times investigation, which documented a range of internal concerns about patient care that surfaced as the institute shifted toward a high-volume surgical practice. Among the concerns was the practice of booking multiple surgeries at the same time.
State health investigators later documented multiple problems at Swedish’s neurosurgery institute at the Cherry Hill campus, including failure to track when the lead surgeon was in the operating room and failure to heed staff concerns.
After an internal review, Swedish largely banned its doctors from scheduling overlapping surgeries.
In April 2018, Delashaw sued The Times and a Swedish doctor for libel and defamation, claiming he was the victim of false reporting and a conspiracy to undermine his reputation.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the date of when Delashaw resigned as chair of the Swedish Neuroscience Institute.
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