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BY: Richard L. Groffsky | IN: Medical Malpractice
Deadline Detroit recently published two articles written by Eric Starkman, a former Detroit News business reporter who investigated the details of a 2019 contract between Beaumont Health and Kalamazoo, Michigan-based Stryker Corp.
According to Mr. Starkman’s investigation, Beaumont committed to using Stryker medical implants in 75 percent of its orthopedic trauma procedures despite objections from trauma practice leaders who found Stryker products lacked sufficient quality. Purportedly, the health system would receive millions of dollars in rebates if it reaches the 75-percent threshold.
Critics, including Beaumont orthopedic surgeons, say that the controversial deal not only puts profits over patient care but also restricts doctors from using other company’s devices they prefer over Stryker products. Surgeons seeking to use non-Stryker devices must obtain written permission from a high-ranking Beaumont physician who also happens to be a paid consultant for Stryker.
Admittedly, many physicians are paid consultants to drug and medical device manufacturers, and Beaumont requires its doctors to disclose their outside financial relationships. But the timing and extent of the contract between Stryker with Beaumont raise several red flags about conflicts of interest. That orthopedic surgeons who would like to use non-Stryker devices must obtain express permission from one doctor (Mr. Starkman’s discovered the doctor’s waiver is also needed to use alternatives to an Ethicon surgical stapler after Beaumont signed a contract with Johnson & Johnson last year) hoists those flags even higher.
The Deadline Detroit exposé also describes how, after Beaumont orthopods used Stryker products only 48 percent of the time in May, an administrator advised the medical staff that Beaumont would no longer keep non-Stryker implant devices sterilized in advance of procedures, a move intended to force surgeons to use sterilized Stryker products. The order was overruled, but the frequent lack of sterilized equipment continues, the result of a shortage of poorly-paid surgical prep workers.
When non-Stryker devices aren’t stocked or sterilized, and with reduced staff, Mr. Starkman found, Beaumont orthopedic surgeons must often delay or cancel their procedures. At best, these delays and cancellations inconvenience patients and families; at worst, they jeopardize patient health and safety and can result in medical malpractice claims.
Stryker, which makes a variety of products used in hospitals and healthcare facilities worldwide, has a history of defective implants, most notably certain metal-on-metal hip replacement systems. Sommers Schwartz has represented numerous patients who suffered pain, infection, and loss of mobility, and who had to undergo revision surgeries to remove and replace negligently designed Stryker hip implants. To settle these and other patients’ suits, the company agreed to a settlement that will likely exceed $1.4 billion once all claims are processed.
Most patients do not research the different products available for hip, knee, and shoulder replacements, but highly-publicized litigation against Stryker, Johnson & Johnson, OtisMed, Wright Orthopedics, and Zimmer Biomet is changing that. With assistance from U.S. News & World Report, Consumer Reports, and other resources, patients are becoming better shoppers by educating themselves and investigating device options instead of blindly deferring to their surgeons.
But Beaumont’s nearly exclusive contract with Stryker and limitations placed on orthopods to use rival products puts informed patients in a difficult position – get a Stryker implant or go to another doctor for surgery at another hospital.
Doctors, nurses, and specialists throughout the organization are outraged by a “profits-before-patients” ideology in Beaumont’s C-suite and, as Crain’s Detroit Business reports, they are taking their talents and revenue streams elsewhere.
The backlash is directed at CEO John Fox and COO Carolyn Wilson and their efforts to merge Beaumont with Advocate Aurora, a large network of hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin. Opponents argue the merger won’t improve patient care but will generate a substantial payout to Mr. Fox. Also, the recent decision to replace 70 highly-trained Beaumont anesthesiologists following a new outsourcing agreement Texas-based NorthStar Anesthesia has further rankled surgeons and other doctors.
In response, an exodus of nationally and internationally revered specialists in cardiology, cardiovascular surgery, anesthesiology, transplant surgery, and plastic surgery have exited or plan to leave the health system. While many are going to other local hospitals, some have taken positions outside Michigan, yet another blow to patients in Metro Detroit and other parts of Michigan who look to Beaumont for best-in-class care and treatment.
If you are a surgical patient at Beaumont and believe your health was endangered by treatment delays, lack of available devices, or insufficient staffing, please contact the attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Medical Malpractice Litigation Group today. Our team of experienced lawyers, nurses, and experts will review your case and help you determine if you may be entitled to compensation.
View all posts byRichard L. Groffsky
Richard Groffsky focuses his practice on medical malpractice and personal injury litigation, and has represented victims of devastating brain injuries and birth injuries in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, South Carolina, and Georgia in significant brain injury and birth injury cases.