A San Antonio hospital placed a pathologist on administrative leave Tuesday after The Times reported accusations by former colleagues and California regulators that he had misdiagnosed patients at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center.
Baptist Health System took the action against Dr. Dennis G. Hooper “as a precaution,” the hospital said in a written statement, while it investigates material contained in the article.
Hooper, who worked at King/Drew from 2000 to 2002, has been accused by the Medical Board of California of negligence in the care of six patients at King/Drew, a Los Angeles County public hospital. Hooper is contesting the accusation, filed in October 2003.
The cases in the accusation include that of Johnnie Mae Williams, who went to King/Drew in March 2001 for a seemingly minor gynecological exam. Hooper determined that she had cancer of the uterine lining, and surgeons removed all of her reproductive organs, according to her medical records.
Hooper was wrong, according to the records.
His findings were based on a slide from another patient, who had brain cancer, records show. In his report, Hooper raised the possibility that the slide had been mislabeled, but the California medical board said he did not investigate further.
Hooper’s colleagues had complained about his performance to King/Drew’s medical leaders in August 2000, but their concerns were ignored, a county audit later found.
Although auditors recommended that King/Drew discipline Hooper, the hospital did not do so, county health officials acknowledge.
Hooper, 55, could not be reached for comment. An attorney for the pathologist, James Andrew Hinds Jr., wrote in a Nov. 5 letter to The Times that criticisms of Hooper were “without factual substantiation.”
Hinds also said Hooper was precluded from commenting on patient cases because of confidentiality rules.
After Hooper left King/Drew, he moved to Texas and began working at Baptist in August 2003.
As part of its report on Hooper, which was published Tuesday, The Times sought comment from Baptist. In a letter this September, the newspaper asked whether the hospital was aware of public documents pertaining to his medical and business practices, including the medical board accusation.
In response, hospital spokeswoman Karen May said: “Dr. Hooper is a member in good standing of our medical staff here at Baptist Health System. And that’s the information we’re prepared to release.”
In its statement released Tuesday, the hospital said, “Because of our commitment to quality, we are understandably concerned about the allegations raised today.”
The statement said Hooper had served “without incident” at Baptist and that the hospital’s quality assurance program requires multiple reviews of diagnoses to ensure they are accurate.