By Jonathan Saltzman – GLOBE STAFF
A prominent Boston neurosurgeon was illegally forced out of his previous job at a New York hospital for strongly objecting to a policy that allowed another surgeon to perform complex spine surgeries on two patients simultaneously, a judge ruled.
Double-booking, as the practice is sometimes called, triggered a fierce dispute among doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital in recent years, leading to the 2015 dismissal of an orthopedic surgeon who opposed it. But Dr. James Holsapple may be the first doctor to win a lawsuit alleging he faced retaliation for challenging the practice.
New York Supreme Court Justice James P. Murphy ruled after a bench trial that University Hospital in Syracuse retaliated against Holsapple after he spoke out about the surgeon running two operating rooms at once.
“Dr. Holsapple vehemently objected and opposed the procedures for valid public health and safety reasons,” Murphy ruled in a 13-page decision received by the neurosurgeon Monday.
Holsapple, now chief of neurosurgery at Boston Medical Center, was awarded $88,277 in lost wages under the New York State whistle-blower statute. His lawyer estimated that the award could top $150,000 because Holsapple is entitled to interest on lost wages.
Holsapple, who resigned under pressure from University Hospital in 2009 and moved to Boston, said he felt vindicated.
“I did what I thought was right, and I’m grateful that the judge who heard the case saw it the same way,” said Holsapple, who heads the neurosurgery department at the Boston University School of Medicine.
The New York attorney general’s office, which defended University Hospital as part of the State University of New York, referred all questions to the hospital. Darryl Geddes, a hospital spokesman, said he could not comment because the attorney general’s office is considering an appeal.