IMH file photo

Ivinson Memorial Hospital

Ivinson Memorial Hospital’s former chief medical officer, Kenneth Barrick, is seeking $38 million in a lawsuit against the hospital and its affiliated governmental entities.

The lawsuit was filed Oct. 25 and alleges that key hospital officials allowed an under-qualified anesthetist to work in obstetrics because he was having an “intimate” relationship with a top Ivinson official.

Barrick first started working at the hospital in December 2016. After starting as an ER physician, he was quickly promoted to the ER’s medical director. While still holding that position, as well as doing physician work, he began the chief medical officer for the entire hospital, according to a notice of governmental claim that was also filed Oct. 25 with defendants.

The lawsuit claims that, after Barrick made top officials aware of substandard care and other misconduct, the hospital forced his resignation in August 2019.

The lawsuit claims that at some point during his tenure, Barrick found out that the hospital had hired a new, under-qualified nurse anesthetist to help cover anesthesia services for obstetrical and obstetrical surgical cases.

Barrick’s allegations say that newly hired anesthetist was responsible for a “breach of standard of care” that caused harmed to a obstetrical patient and possibly her child.

Barrick “further learned that the new-hire (anesthetist) did not have the mandatory two years of supervised (certified registered nurse anesthetist) practice in OB care, but instead was a new graduate with no supervised CRNA practice experience at all.”

Barrick claims certain hospital officials had “without authority, permission or justification, physically altered the hospital rules regulations and/or job requirements so as to eliminate the two years or supervised CRNA practice experience in OB care and artificially make the particular newly-minted, inexperienced CRNA appear to be eligible to be hired as an unsupervised nurse anesthetist providing anesthesia services to obstetrical and obstetrical-surgical patients at the hospital,” the lawsuit claims.

Barrick “further learned that the alteration of the official job requirements had been done secretly, informally, under the table and without approval by the person whose job it was to set, modify and enforce job qualification requirements.”

The lawsuit claims the rules were solely changed to give the anesthetist a job because he was having “an intimate personal relationship” with one of the defendants in the case.

The lawsuit doesn’t state which specific defendant was in a relationship with the anesthetist.

There are four individuals named as defendants in the case: CEO Doug Faus, Director of Human Relations Shawn Evans, former Director of Human Relations Holly Zeits and Chief Nursing Officer Nicole Rooney.

According to the lawsuit, Barrick conferred about the incident with “senior obstetricians and senior anesthesiologists,” all of whom allegedly “recognized that the care provided by the CRNA to the patient was arguably or allegedly not in keeping with the standard of care and may in fact have caused harm to the patient.”

Other CRNA staff also said they didn’t believe the nurse anesthetist was “well qualified, and certainly not appropriate to provide obstetrical anesthesia services to obstetrical and obstetrical surgical patients without active supervision by an experienced CRNA or anesthesiologist.”

Barrick then raised the issue with Faus and Evans, according to the lawsuit, pointing out problems “likely to be generated by artificially and falsely altering the job qualification requirements to permit an inexperienced CRNA to provide anesthesia services for obstetrical and obstetrical surgical patients in furtherance of an intimate personal relationship between the inexperienced male CRNA and a senior hospital administrator.”

Instead of addressing the issues, the defendants instead “delivered an ultimatum to (Barrick), informing him that he would be ‘terminated,’ instructing him that his sole option was to ‘resign,’ and telling him that if he did not affix his signature to a purported ‘resignation’ that he would be officially ‘terminated’ without further process,” the suit claims.

Barrick signed a “separation” letter to avoid a “professional death sentence,” he claims.

The lawsuit alleges that hospital officials “felt the need to prevent their actions, omissions and derelictions of duty becoming known to the Trustees, Directors and other responsible senior figures within Ivinson Memorial Hospital, in order to avoid the consequences which might reasonably ensue if their actions, etc., became known to the trustees.”

The hospital is owned by the Albany County Hospital District, which still has a publicly-elected board of trustees. However, since the hospital converted to a nonprofit in 2018, the day-to-day operations of Ivinson have been overseen by an appointed board of directors.

Once Barrick was given an new job as a ER physician, hospital officials “promptly made arrangements to ensure that claimant not be assigned any shifts even in this capacity, and (defendants) actively disparaged (Barrick) personally and professionally.”

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