Last summer an Alamogordo, New Mexico, hospital, Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center, was forced to file bankruptcy because of 80 medical malpractice claims it had against it and two of its physicians. The doctor at the center of the controversy is Dr. Christian Schlicht, an anesthesiologist and pain management specialist who allegedly lied about his credentials and performed surgeries he was not qualified for.
Another doctor involved in the controversy is Dr. Frank Bryant, an orthopedic surgeon who sometimes performed surgeries with Schlicht. Bryant, until Schlicht confessed to him in 2008, was not aware of the falsified credentials Schlicht claimed, according to The Albuquerque Journal. Dr. Schlicht wasn’t a surgeon and performed a procedure that posed as a hazard to patients.
Plexiglas-like cement injured several patients involved in the lawsuit. The substance was supposed to serve as a cushion between spinal discs to relieve pain, but the cement seeped into other areas of the spine before hardening, or in some cases hardened and then later cracked. The procedure caused pain and injury to several patients, and an operating room nurse tried to warn a supervisor of the surgeries, saying they had gone too far. According to court documents, the supervisor urged the nurse to let it be.
“He confided in me that some of his neurosurgery training was falsified,” Bryant recalled during a deposition earlier in the year according to The Albuquerque Journal. “I wanted to just die right there in the room. I didn’t know what to do.”
The settlement will allow the hospital to emerge from bankruptcy protection. According to court documents, the lawsuit involved 80 patients, four of whom died, and out of those four at least one death was caused by the cement injections. The settlement, which totaled more than $33 million, was broken into three parts. Quorum Health Resources LLC, a national health insurance firm that manages more than 150 hospitals, and another insurance company, which was not named, will pay $13.5 million. The hospital will pay $7.5 million over three years and Bryant will pay $11.5 million.
Schlicht left the country last year to serve as a senior flight surgeon at a U.S. Air Force base in Japan, and his license in New Mexico has expired, according to the publication.