Doctor disciplined in U.S. for ‘inappropriate’ practices
CPSO doesn’t tell patients about Dr. Stefan Konasiewicz’s past
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
Dr. Stefan Joseph Konasiewicz