An attorney for former Swedish neurosurgeon Dr. Johnny Delashaw disputed allegations that he yelled and cursed at staff, saying accusers had a “personal agenda” against him.
TUMWATER — Nurses were acting on a “personal agenda” when they accused Dr. Johnny Delashaw of improper conduct, according to an attorney for the prominent Seattle surgeon whose medical license was suspended by the state last month.
Attorney Amy Magnano made that argument Monday in a hearing before a three-member panel of the state Medical Quality Assurance Commission, which will decide whether Delashaw’s license should remain suspended.
State regulators suspended Delashaw’s medical license in May, an action considered warranted because “of an immediate threat to the public health and safety,” according to commission documents.
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Among other things, Delashaw allegedly yelled and cursed at his subordinates, creating a chilling affect among medical staff who became afraid to ask questions that were needed to properly care for patients, the documents said.
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On Monday, Magnano said that accusations made by several nurses largely came from alleged incidents in 2015. They therefore didn’t support the argument that Delashaw was an immediate threat to safety this year, she said.
“There’s just no causal connection between those outdated events and an immediate risk of harm in 2017,” Magnano said.
Magnano said those nurses were “acting as advocates” against Delashaw with “a personal agenda.”
The suspension of Delashaw’s license came in the wake of a Seattle Times investigation into Swedish Health’s neuroscience unit. That investigation, which raised questions about patient care, highlighted the high volume of brain and spine surgeries that take place at Swedish-Cherry Hill.
Delashaw resigned voluntarily and doesn’t currently have practicing privileges at any hospital, Magnano said.
In documents, commission officials have said Delashaw intimidated subordinates by swearing, yelling and making threatening movements toward staff. The alleged actions had a chilling effect on employees, making some afraid to ask Delashaw questions, according to the commission.
The commission also said Delashaw’s behavior put patient care at risk by causing experienced nurses to leave.
Assistant Attorney General Tracy Bahm told the commission panel Monday that the allegations made by nurses who used to work with Delashaw justified keeping his medical license suspended.
“These are the nurses who put up with his yelling, his threats, his swearing, his belittling, his condescension,” Bahm said. “Some of the threats were overt, many of them were implied.”
Members of the Medical Quality Assurance Commission panel were expected to discuss the case and release a decision on Delashaw’s suspension within the next few days, said Matthew Herington, a health-law judge who oversaw Monday’s proceeding.
After the stories by The Seattle Times, state regulators launched an investigation into practices at the Swedish-Cherry Hill campus.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office also began looking into the neurosurgery unit.
Delashaw built a reputation as a surgeon who handled hundreds of cases per year. He came to Seattle in 2013 after practicing at the University of California, Irvine, where he had been dealing with an internal investigation and questions about his care.
Delashaw faced internal complaints after he arrived at Swedish, according to documents obtained by The Times.
He also emerged as Washington state’s highest-volume brain or spine surgeon. Data show he handled 661 inpatient cases amounting to more than $86 million in billed charges for the hospital in his first 16 months.