Independent panel to weigh in on appeal by University of Arizona's suspended head of surgery

2014-03-09T00:00:00Z Independent panel to weigh in on appeal by University of Arizona's suspended head of surgeryBy Stephanie Innes Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 09, 2014 12:00 am  • 

An independent panel will consider a request from top University of Arizona surgeon Dr. Rainer Gruessner to get his job back, a judge ruled Friday.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Carmine Cornelio denied Gruessner’s request to be reinstated as head of the UA surgery department and dismissed the UA as a defendant in the case.

But Cornelio told lawyers from University Physicians Healthcare (UPH) that within 15 days they must begin setting up proceedings for Gruessner to get due process from the company that staffs the UA Medical Center with surgeons from the UA. An independent panel will make a recommendation to UPH about his employment, the judge said.

Gruessner was placed on administrative leave with pay in September after a dispute with administration involving transplant records. He filed a lawsuit in November asking for his job back. Both UPH and the UA have since given him notices of termination. He continues to receive a paycheck. His annual salary is $771,334.

Administrators accused Gruessner of altering liver transplant records; Gruessner denies any wrongdoing. No patient harm was alleged and Gruessner’s skill as a surgeon was not questioned.

Under Gruessner’s direction, the hospital offered both adult and pediatric kidney and liver transplants, as well as heart, lung, islet cell, intestine and pancreas transplants. The hospital has since performed significantly fewer transplants and has closed its islet cell and intestine transplant programs.

About two dozen people were waiting for islet cell transplants at the time of the closure, Gruessner testified last week. The heart, lung, and pediatric kidney and liver transplant programs are currently inactive, though a new heart and lung transplant surgeon was recently hired.

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