One year ago, complications from stomach stapling surgery triggered a number of lawsuits against Lubbock's Highland Medical Center, and the doctor who performed the surgery. One of the patients died as a result of her complications, and several others are still coping with painful side effects. The surgery that was performed by Houston Dr. Ramesh Srungaram, who has recently filed for bankruptcy.
"These ladies had gone into Highland Hospital to have stomach stapling surgery. All four had complications and then became very ill from infection," says Attorney Tommy Turner of the Lubbock law firm Turner & Jordan. Turner represents four alleged victim's of botched bariatric surgery.
It's the radical weight-loss surgery that requires doctors to actually go in and staple the stomach. It can be a life saver for the morbidly overweight. "In some cases people have to have it or they're going to die, because for one reason or another, they can't lose weight," says Turner.
It's a risky procedure, but skilled surgeons have proven to be very successful at it. However, last July, when Highland Hospital's regular bariatric surgeon took some time off, the hospital brought in a temporary Surgeon. Dr. Ramesh Srungaram out of Houston filled in at Highland for three weeks. It's Dr. Srungaram's alleged negligence that's being challenged in court. So far, 18 patients have come forward against Dr. Srungaram, three of whom are from West Texas. Four are represented by Turner's law firm.
Turner is also going after Highland Hospital and Highland's parent corporation for not thoroughly checking out Dr. Srungaram. Of the patients Turner represents, the side effects as a result of Srungarams alleged improper technique are frightening. Stomachs that weren't stapled together properly were leaking food and water causing bacterial infections. Several patients developed permanent breathing problems. And one death.
Dr. Srungaram declared bankruptcy, and apparently has the bare minimum in insurance coverage. His insurance will pay $650,000, which must be split between all claimants in the lawsuit. The lawsuit against Highland and its parent company could be a multi-million dollar suit. We left messages with Highland Hospital today, but they did not return our phone calls.
Dr. Srungaram is still practicing bariatric surgery in Houston. And because he's licensed in Texas, he can still perform the surgery in Lubbock, but he did resign from Highland.