Edina doctor's shocking errors punished

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH
  • Star Tribune
  • January 15, 2010 - 10:42 PM

A veteran Edina doctor has been disciplined for removing the wrong kidney of a patient during cancer surgery, a medical mix-up that made headlines across the state in 2008, and for taking a biopsy from the wrong organ of another patient a few months later.

Dr. Erol T. Uke, a urologist, has been reprimanded and indefinitely barred from inpatient surgery by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice, the board said Friday.

Uke, 59, could not immediately be reached for comment. His attorney, Paul C. Peterson, said in a statement: "Dr. Uke is very sorry for the medical errors that occurred here. The isolated conduct involved is not representative of the high quality of care he has provided to thousands of patients during his career.''

A state report issued in the summer of 2008, while not naming Uke, said he made the initial error while performing surgery on a patient with kidney cancer in March 2008 at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park. Uke told investigators he removed the wrong kidney because he was distracted by beeper calls and other patients and that he failed to read the radiologist's notes to ensure he was operating on the correct side, according to a report by the state's Office of Health Facility Complaints.

The case drew wide attention at the time, and Methodist admitted the error in a rare public apology on March 17, 2008, six days after the surgery.

Later, the hospital imposed new rules for "mistake proofing" the operating room, including extra steps to doublecheck radiology images and mark patients' surgery sites before procedures. State investigators concluded the hospital has taken corrective action and would not be cited for the incident.

In a statement at the time, the hospital's owner, Park Nicollet Health Services, said it took full responsibility for the "tragic medical error" and cooperated fully with the investigation. "We work continuously to eliminate errors and will not rest until we reduce them to zero," the statement said.

Hospital spokesman Jeremiah Whitten declined Friday to reveal anything about the identity or the fate of the patient, citing "patient and personnel privacy restrictions." But the state report revealed that the patient had subsequent surgery at another hospital to try to remove the tumor and save his remaining kidney.

Uke's erroneous biopsy followed about four months later, the Board of Medical Practice said. In that case, the doctor performed a biopsy on a patient's pancreas rather than a kidney. The board report did not say where that procedure occurred or what became of the patient.

The board lists no other disciplinary actions against Uke.

Uke has had his Minnesota doctor's license since 1982. He graduated from Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago and had post-graduate training at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and at Northwestern.

A psychological evaluation determined that Uke "had experienced two incidents of isolated surgical errors" and recommended that he limit his practice to outpatient work and procedures.

He can regain his privileges after the board determines that he is "fit and competent to resume the performance of surgery," the board said. In other restrictions, the board said Uke: cannot practice more than 40 hours per week; is limited to outpatient surgery in clinic or office settings; is subject to quarterly reports to the board by a supervising doctor; and must meet quarterly with a board member.

In the period that includes Uke's surgical errors, October 2007-2008, 18 people died and nearly 100 were seriously injured as a result of medical mistakes, accidents or negligence in Minnesota hospitals, according to a state Health Department report on medical errors. Hospitals reported 77 cases of surgical errors, including 21 operations on the wrong body part, and two on the wrong patient.

Staff writer Maura Lerner contributed to this report. Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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