Doc­tor dis­ci­plined in U.S. for ‘in­ap­pro­pri­ate’ prac­tices

CPSO doesn’t tell pa­tients about Dr. Ste­fan Konasiewicz’s past

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - JOANNA FRKETICH

A neu­ro­sur­geon who owns a Hamil­ton pain clinic was dis­ci­plined in Min­nesota for “un­pro­fes­sional and un­eth­i­cal con­duct” that al­legedly led to the death of one pa­tient, left an­other a quad­ri­plegic and resulted in frac­tured ver­te­brae for a third pa­tient.

Dr. Ste­fan Joseph Konasiewicz prac­tises at Uni­ver­sal In­ter­ven­tional Pain Clinic at 554 Main St. E. as well as at clin­ics he owns in Rich­mond Hill, New­mar­ket and Toronto.

The 54-year-old Cana­dian was rep­ri­manded by the Min­nesota Board of Med­i­cal Prac­tice on Sept. 11, 2010, and the Wis­con­sin Med­i­cal Ex­am­in­ing Board on June 15, 2011.

His li­cence was limited for two years after Min­nesota’s com­plaint re­view com­mit­tee de­ter­mined his prac­tices in treat­ing four pa­tients “as in­ap­pro­pri­ate in such a way as to re­quire Board ac­tion.”

He also had con­di­tions tem­po­rar­ily placed on his li­cence by the Texas Med­i­cal Board on Feb. 8, 2013.

A num­ber of mal­prac­tice suits were filed in Texas and Min­nesota — some were dis­missed, oth­ers closed and some are pend­ing.

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion to de­ter­mine if “Dr. Konasiewicz is in­com­pe­tent or reck­less” was re­quested in 2008 by deputy med­i­cal ex­am­iner of St. Louis County at the time, Dr. Don­ald Kun­del, in a let­ter to the Min­nesota board pub­lished in the Du­luth News Tri­bune.

Kun­del could not be in­ter­viewed be­cause he died in 2012 but two former col­leagues are speak­ing out about Konasiewicz.

“He was a night­mare,” said Dr. David McKee, a neu­rol­o­gist at North­land Neu­rol­ogy and My­ol­ogy, Pa., in Du­luth, Minn. “If I hear that he’s prac­tis-

ing I think, ‘Oh my God who is hurt­ing now?’”

McKee refers pa­tients to neu­ro­sur­geons in Du­luth where Konasiewicz prac­tised at St. Luke’s Health Care Sys­tem from 1997 to 2008.

He says the first pa­tient he re­ferred to Konasiewicz died de­spite the biopsy re­quired be­ing “in­cred­i­bly sim­ple” and “su­per low risk.”

Konasiewicz did not com­ment when The Spec­ta­tor called both his Hamil­ton clinic and the main Toronto of­fice of his busi­ness Dr. Ste­fan Konasiewicz Medicine Pro­fes­sional Cor­po­ra­tion.

An On­tario pa­tient search­ing Konasiewicz through of­fi­cial reg­u­la­tory bod­ies would not know of his past in the United States.

“How can that be al­lowed to hap­pen?” asks Dr. Wil­liam Hi­mango, a re­tired Du­luth neu­ro­sur­geon who used to work with Konasiewicz at St. Luke’s. “I’m ap­palled. … Why is he still prac­tis­ing?”

Konasiewicz trained at Queen’s Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of Toronto, win­ning awards as a neu­ro­sur­gi­cal res­i­dent.

He is cer­ti­fied in neu­ro­surgery by the Royal Col­lege of Physi­cians and Sur­geons of Canada since Au­gust 28, 1996, and the Amer­i­can Board of Neu­ro­log­i­cal Surgery since at least 2000.

His pro­file with the Col­lege of Physi­cians and Sur­geons of On­tario (CPSO) shows no prac­tice re­stric­tions, no no­tices and no past find­ings of the dis­ci­pline or fit­ness to prac­tise com­mit­tee.

He ap­pears on the Hamil­ton Academy of Medicine’s “Find a Doc­tor” web­site for pa­tients be­cause he is in good stand­ing with the CPSO.

“You just trust they’re not go­ing to send you to a per­son with a bad rep­u­ta­tion,” said Brant­ford pa­tient An­drea Lerner.

She was re­ferred by her fam­ily doc­tor to the Uni­ver­sal In­ter­ven­tional Pain Clinic in Hamil­ton which was given a pass with con­di­tions as an out-of-hospi­tal premises by CPSO on April 22, 2016.

CPSO has over­sight over clin­ics that use cer­tain types of anes­the­sia or pro­vide in­ter­ven­tional pain man­age­ment such as in­jec­tions or an X-ray guided pro­ce­dure called Rhi­zo­tomy.

The fourth case ex­am­ined by the Min­nesota board in­volved al­leged nerve root in­jury fol­low­ing Rhi­zo­tomy in­jec­tions. It is not clear which pro­ce­dures are cur­rently be­ing done at the clin­ics Konasiewicz owns.

The Hamil­ton clinic was not yet open when it was in­spected so the pass was con­di­tional on the as­sess­ment team re­turn­ing within six months of it be­com­ing op­er­a­tional to ob­serve pro­ce­dures and re­view record­keep­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion. No sec­ond in­spec­tion is yet listed on the CPSO web­site.

An­other clinic with the same name owned by Konasiewicz at 491 Lawrence Ave. W. in Toronto re­ceived a pass with con­di­tions on Sept. 5, 2014, and an un­con­di­tional pass on June 23, 2015.

“All new premises must un­dergo an in­spec­tion be­fore they are per­mit­ted to open,” CPSO says in a state­ment. “There­after, premises are in­spected ev­ery five years to en­sure a safe en­vi­ron­ment and that the physi­cians per­form­ing pro­ce­dures in the premises are qual­i­fied.”

Lerner said she be­came sus­pi­cious when the Hamil­ton clinic had no wait­ing list after she’d been told it would likely take months to get an ap­point­ment. She says the clinic also re­fused to tell her the doc­tor’s last name.

“I went to Google,” she said. “The more re­search I did, the scarier it got. As a pa­tient, I was in shock.”

She can­celled the ap­point­ment and was re­ferred to an­other Hamil­ton pain clinic.

“Peo­ple have to do their re­search be­cause they don’t know what they’re get­ting,” she said.

If the dis­ci­pline in the United States had hap­pened to­day, it would be listed on his CPSO pro­file. But that rule only came into place as of Sept. 1, 2015.

“Mat­ters that oc­curred prior to Sept. 1, 2015, are not avail­able on the pub­lic reg­is­ter,” CPSO said in the state­ment.

The pro­file also doesn’t in­clude Min­nesota in the sec­tion re­quir­ing On­tario doc­tors to list other ju­ris­dic­tions where they are reg­is­tered to prac­tise be­cause Konasiewicz no longer has an ac­tive li­cence there.

It ex­pired March 31, 2009, while he was al­ready work­ing in Texas. He prac­tised at the South Texas Brain and Spine Cen­ter in Cor­pus Christi from around 2008 to the fall of 2011. The cen­ter said it was un­able to com­ment about Konasiewicz be­cause no one cur­rently prac­tic­ing there worked with him.

St. Luke’s Health Care Sys­tem also de­clined com­ment. A let­ter to the com­mu­nity dated Aug. 4, 2011, stated: “The law pro­hibits St. Luke’s from say­ing what, if any, peer re­view oc­curred con­cern­ing Dr. Konasiewicz.”

Konasiewicz was rep­ri­manded by the Min­nesota Board in 2010 — 18 months after his li­cence ex­pired. He was or­dered to ob­tain a su­per­vis­ing physi­cian spe­cial­iz­ing in neu­ro­log­i­cal surgery and ap­proved by the com­plaint re­view com­mit­tee. That doc­tor was to ob­serve at least five surg­eries ev­ery three months for at least two years and sub­mit quar­terly re­ports to the board.

Konasiewicz him­self was to meet with a des­ig­nated board mem­ber ev­ery three months.

Months later, Wis­con­sin’s board also con­cluded Konasiewicz “com­mit­ted un­pro­fes­sional con­duct” based on the same four cases as Min­nesota and made his li­cence con­di­tional on him com­ply­ing with the Min­nesota or­der.

After two years, Konasiewicz pe­ti­tioned the Min­nesota board to take the con­di­tions off his can­celled and in­ac­tive li­cence.

The com­plaint re­view com­mit­tee con­cluded he’d met the terms of the or­der and re­moved the con­di­tions on Nov. 10, 2012. It does not state how he met the con­di­tions.

He made a sim­i­lar re­quest to the board in Wis­con­sin and had the con­di­tions re­moved in Jan­uary 2013. His li­cence re­mains ac­tive there.

A month later, the Texas board ex­am­ined two cases. An in­for­mal show com­pli­ance pro­ceed­ing and set­tle­ment con­fer­ence con­cluded he met the stan­dard of care. It also found no ev­i­dence he fal­si­fied med­i­cal records or in­tended to de­ceive the board by an­swer­ing, “No” on a re­newal ap­pli­ca­tion to a ques­tion about whether his li­cence was ever limited. How­ever, he was still or­dered to en­rol in 16 hours of con­tin­u­ing med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion — eight hours on med­i­cal record­keep­ing and eight hours on risk man­age­ment.

He com­pleted the re­quire­ments by April 16, 2013, and his li­cence has had no con­di­tions in Texas ever since.

He cre­ated his On­tario cor­po­ra­tion in April, 2014. He lists no hospi­tal priv­i­leges on his CPSO pro­file.

The Min­istry of Health re­ferred ques­tions about reg­u­la­tion to CPSO. The state­ment by the reg­u­la­tory body says it is com­mon for neu­ro­sur­geons to pro­vide pain man­age­ment in pri­vate clin­ics but first they “need to pro­vide ev­i­dence of train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion in pain man­age­ment.”

Doc­tors are also re­quired to re­port to CPSO that they have been dis­ci­plined by an­other li­cens­ing author­ity.

“Gen­er­ally speak­ing, when the CPSO re­ceives in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing an is­sue in an­other ju­ris­dic­tion, we will mon­i­tor and/or in­ves­ti­gate the mat­ters,” says the state­ment. “There are a num­ber pos­si­ble out­comes to such an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­clud­ing re­quest­ing or ac­cept­ing the doc­tor’s un­der­tak­ing to im­prove prac­tice or to re­strict prac­tice.”

CPSO can’t speak about in­di­vid­ual doc­tors so it’s un­known whether the reg­u­la­tory body knew about the rep­ri­mands or did any in­ves­ti­gat­ing of its own.

It dis­tresses Bar­bara Car­lyon to think On­tario pa­tients have to do their own dig­ging to get what she con­sid­ers cru­cial in­for­ma­tion about Konasiewicz.

She says her 75-year-old sis­ter Wanda McCarty died days after he per­formed surgery on her in Texas.

“At that time, we didn’t know him from Adam,” she says. “We just un­der­stood that he was the doc­tor on duty.”

She says if they’d known about the is­sues in Min­nesota, “We would have con­sulted an­other doc­tor. We wouldn’t have used him.”

She said she still feels “sick” about what they didn’t know.

“Any time I’d be down or up­set about some­thing all I’d have to do is call my sis­ter Wanda and she’d have me laugh­ing in five min­utes,” said Car­lyon. “I hope he never comes back this way. I wish he couldn’t even op­er­ate any­more.”

You just trust they’re not go­ing to send you to a per­son with a bad rep­u­ta­tion. AN­DREA LERNER PA­TIENT FROM BRANT­FORD

FILE PHOTO

Dr. Ste­fan Joseph Konasiewicz

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