An anesthesiologist from the Dallas Metroplex area is under federal and state investigation over allegations that he tampered with IV (intravenous) bags at Baylor Scott & White Surgicare North Dallas. The tampering by the physician is alleged to be the cause of at least one patient death.
On September 9, 2022, the Texas Medical Board suspended the medical license of Raynaldo Rivera Ortiz, Jr., MD, an anesthesiologist, after determining that allowing him to keep practicing medicine would pose a continuing threat to public welfare. The Board took the rare action against Dr. Ortiz after federal authorities revealed an ongoing investigation related to serious cardiac complications and a death connected with Dr. Ortiz’s care.
The deceased patient was Melanie Kaspar, who was an anesthesiologist colleague of Dr. Ortiz’s at Baylor Scott & White Surgicare North Dallas. Kaspar self-administered an IV because she wasn’t feeling well. Within 30 minutes, Kaspar felt worse and then suddenly collapsed. The Dallas County Medical Examiner determined that the cause of her death was the toxic effects of bupivacaine.
Bupivacaine is a local anesthetic, which is a type of medication that would be available to anesthesiologists, like Dr. Ortiz.
According to the Texas Medical Board, surveillance footage from Baylor Scott & White Surgicare North Dallas showed Dr. Ortiz placing IV bags into a warmer near an operating room. After the IV bags were used in patient care, unexpected cardiac complications occurred.
One alleged victim was an 18-year-old patient who destabilized and went into severe respiratory distress during a deviated septum repair surgery.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Baylor Scott & White Surgicare North Dallas is temporarily closed. From news reports, it appears that the facility’s leadership is cooperating with authorities who are investigating these serious patient safety and criminal claims.
Should the anesthesiologist have remained on the medical staff?
One of the interesting questions that will be explored in the cases that follow is whether the medical staff and administration at Baylor Scott & White Surgicare North Dallas should have allowed Dr. Ortiz to continue to practice on its medical staff well before the IV bag tampering allegedly occurred.
This case reminds me of the infamous “Dr. Death” (Christopher Duntsch, MD) medical malpractice and wrongful death claims. Baylor Regional Medical Center, in Plano, recruited Dr. Duntsch as a spine surgeon.
Ultimately, the Texas Medical Board took an immediate suspension action against Dr. Duntsch after over 30 patients were injured or died while under his care during a short period of time. Our law firm represented one of the medical malpractice plaintiffs in that litigation, Jerry Summers.
As in the “Dr. Death” case, there will surely be investigations into what the facility knew about Dr. Ortiz while it allowed him to continue to serve on its medical staff and care for patients.
Prior disciplinary history
According to Texas Medical Board records, Dr. Ortiz was the subject of previous disciplinary actions.
• On March 9, 2018, the Board filed a complaint noting that Dr. Ortiz had been accused of assault causing bodily injury to a spouse, the subject of two emergency protective orders over alleged assaults, and found guilty of cruelty to non-livestock animals (a misdemeanor and crime of moral turpitude). Baylor Scott & White Medical Center—Garland disciplined Dr. Ortiz for failing to report his criminal conviction.
• On June 20, 2018, the Board filed a complaint against Dr. Ortiz, alleging that he obtained deferred adjudication in an assault case against a female partner (also a misdemeanor and crime of moral turpitude). The Board also alleged that he misled the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center—Garland’s medical executive committee about whether he had disclosed his criminal history to all other hospitals where he had medical staff privileges.
• On October 19, 2018, the Board entered an agreed order of public reprimand.
• On August 19, 2022, the Board entered an agreed order, based on Board charges that Dr. Ortiz violated the standard of care during a surgery where he performed anesthesia. According to the Board, the patient required cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and emergency transfer to an acute care hospital. An investigation of Dr. Ortiz’s care led to an adverse recommendation by the North Garland Surgery Center medical executive committee. Dr. Ortiz submitted his resignation from the medical staff, apparently in lieu of discipline. In the agreed order, the Board required Dr. Ortiz’s practice to be monitored by a physician.
All of this happened before the alleged IV tampering. Are you wondering whether the facility should have terminated his medical staff privileges sooner? Do you think it was safe for Dr. Ortiz to still be involved in patient care based on this history?
Texas laws protect physicians and hospital committees
Unfortunately, Texas law takes an extreme position in favor of physician and hospital confidentiality, at the expense of patient safety.
In order to serve on a hospital or facility medical staff, a physician must be credentialed. The initial credentialing in periodic re-credentialing involves a background check and investigation of the physician. Credentialing and re-credentialing are privileged under Texas law, which means that victims of medical malpractice are unable to use the discovery process to obtain information and documents about what a hospital or facility did or didn’t investigate or know about a physician allowed to serve on the medical staff.
Similarly, the medical peer review and hospital committee privileges keep confidential any reports, reviews, or actions by committees against a physician on the medical staff. For example, the fact that North Garland Surgery Center’s medical executive committee made an adverse recommendation involving Dr. Ortiz wouldn’t be discoverable in a lawsuit against the facility. We only know about it because it is referenced in Texas Medical Board documents.
On top of the challenges presented by these privileges, claims that a hospital or facility granted or maintained medical staff privileges against a physician under questionable circumstances are decided under a standard of malice. In other words, there’s no cause of action for negligent credentialing—it’s malicious credentialing.
If you’ve been seriously injured by care provided by Dr. Ortiz, Baylor Scott & White Surgicare North Dallas, or any other healthcare provider in Texas, then contact a top-rated, experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation about your potential case.