A local surgeon is alleging his livelihood has been destroyed and the public has been put in danger while his privileges at Dan C. Trigg Memorial hospital are suspended.
"It's a sad and dangerous situation that a patient who comes in with an emergency condition requiring surgery must be flown out when there is a local surgeon," said Dr. Sitarama Krishna Kothalanka.
Kothalanka said he disputes the reasons why his privileges at Trigg were suspended. He said the peer-review system, which led to his suspension in February, is not an appropriate method to make such a decision.
Executive Medical Director for Presbyterian Medical Group, Dr. David Arredondo, said he could not discuss the reason for Kothalanka's suspension. He said in general a doctor could have their privileges suspended when there are concerns about the quality of his care, a lapse in certification/licensing, or they have professional behavioral issues.
Kothalanka said he could not elaborate much about the conditions surrounding his suspension though it does involve some of his medical cases. He said those cases should be reviewed by an outside source, a doctor from a similar area.
Kothalanka said the persons on the peer-review board do not have experience in the medical field in which he practices.
Kothalanka said he was flattered when Presbyterian Medical Group approached him for his services in 2011 while he was practicing in Union County.
Kothalanka said he was told there was a great need for his services in Tucumcari and he and his wife Janikamma, an internist who still practices at Trigg, decided it would be a good choice to come to Tucumcari.
Kothalanka said he purchased a home, began to practice at Trigg and opened a private practice office Highlands Surgical Services. He said the suspension has also affected the level of care he can provide his patients.
"I can perform small surgical procedures," Kothalanka said. "Though I cannot treat any major medical conditions unless I see the patient at an outside hospital."
"It is frustrating that the only certified surgeon in our community and rural area is suspended," said Joan Huff of Tucumcari.
Huff said she had two surgeries performed by Kothalanka while he practiced at Trigg. She said went in to the emergency room and was diagnosed with an upper GI blockage and Kothalanka was the surgeon who corrected the condition.
"After being in that much pain, I hope I never have to have that operation again," Huff said. "Though if I had to be operated on again, I would want it to be done by Dr. Kothalanka."