A doctor whose license to practice medicine was temporarily suspended in another state is reportedly working at an Albuquerque hospital. Dr. Frank Allen Zimba was hired by the local Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital last summer despite that disciplinary proceedings were ongoing against him in the State of Oklahoma. The 57-year-old board certified neurological surgeon was accused of operating on the wrong side of an Oklahoma patient’s spine prior to joining the VA hospital staff. He was also accused of committing the same error on two different patients several years previously in New York. As a result of the alleged botched operation, Dr. Zimba’s license to practice medicine was suspended in Oklahoma for six months.
Although it is unknown whether Dr. Zimba has made similar errors at the VA hospital, the New Mexico Medical Board cannot investigate his performance. Under federal law, because Dr. Zimba works at a VA hospital he is only required to hold a medical license in one of the nation’s 50 states. He is currently licensed in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and New York. Consequently, although most of the 7,500 doctors in New Mexico are subject to state review, Dr. Zimba was able to practice medicine in Albuquerque throughout his suspension.
According to New Mexico Medical Board spokesperson J.J. Walker, any malpractice complaints regarding a VA doctor would need to be filed in a state where the physician is licensed. Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Libby Scott stated the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision would likely refuse to investigate a complaint made by a resident of another state because the Board was created to protect the health and safety of state residents. If the same is true for other states, such a system could potentially leave some injured VA hospital patients feeling as if they fell through the cracks.
The Albuquerque VA hospital spokesperson, Sonja Brown, stated hospital supervisors are tasked with investigating and reporting any substantiated patient complaints. Additionally, she said federal law requires the hospital to report any doctor who significantly fails to provide an acceptable level of patient care to the medical board of any state in which the physician is licensed. According to Walker, no one at the New Mexico Medical Board can recall ever receiving such a complaint from any VA hospital.
Following two of his three alleged surgery mistakes, Dr. Zimba reportedly failed to notify the patients regarding the errors. The other patient is currently suing Dr. Zimba for injuries he allegedly suffered as a result of the physician’s purported negligence. The physician’s Oklahoma license is up for renewal this fall.
Medical malpractice may occur any time a health care provider fails to adhere to a reasonable standard of care and injury to a patient results. In New Mexico, medical malpractice cases can be difficult to prove. Additionally, whether your health care provider is a member of the New Mexico Patient Compensation Fund can affect your ability to file a claim. If you were hurt by a physician, nurse, pharmacist, dentist, or someone else tasked with your care, you need a skilled attorney on your side.
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