Troubled Plastic Surgery Center to Face Probe
Thirty-nine-year-old Maria Garcia of Garden Grove went to Hills Surgical Institute in Anaheim Hills on March 13, 2008, for liposuction, vaginal reconstruction and a “Brazilian butt lift,” with plans to return two weeks later for a tummy tuck and breast augmentation. Garcia never made that second appointment as she bled to death from a puncture wound. The state medical board disciplined the surgeon, and now the nursing board is probing a nurse anesthetist at the troubled facility.
Garcia’s family sued the office that a friend recommended, and court documents contended she did not know the place only opened three months earlier, that one of her doctors was under investigation by the California Medical Board, that the facility failed to meet the state’s requirements for surgical centers that use general anesthesia, that it was not state-licensed, Medicare-certified or privately accredited.
Last year, the California Medical Board (CMA) placed Dr. Lawrence Hansen of Cypress on 35 months of probation because of Garcia’s death. The board found Hansen came out of retirement to perform vaginal surgery he had not done in five years, and that he failed to verify the center was accredited as required under state law. An 85-year-old at the time of the CMA enforcement, his inability to perform competently due to his advanced age was also cited.
Hansen first popped up on the Weekly’s radar in a report about the outpatient center’s medical director surrendering his license to practice. Dr. Mark A. Knight, who had taken over the Anaheim Hills practice from another doctor who had surrendered his license in 2010 amid accusations he botched surgeries and had sex with a tummy-tuck patient while her husband and children were in the waiting room.
Besides Knight and Hansen, several Hills Surgical doctors surrendered their licenses or were barred from practicing between 2009-2011 for a sexual assault, other botched surgeries, controlled substances being prescribed as painkillers, medications being illegally purchased and sold and procedures performed on patients who did not ask for them.
Now, the state nursing board is going after Gustavo Gutierrez, the nurse anesthetist who worked on Garcia and was part owner of Hills Surgical Institute. It was Gutierrez who hired Hansen to perform the procedures, according to the board, which accuses Gutierrez of gross negligence and incompetence, including leaving Garcia alone on the operating table for half an hour.
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