State board reprimands former Duluth neurosurgeonA former St. Luke’s neurosurgeon who had a patient die from a surgically-induced defect and at least three other patients claim adverse reactions to his surgeries has been publicly reprimanded by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice for unethical and unprofessional conduct.
By: Mark Stodghill, Duluth News Tribune
A former St. Luke’s neurosurgeon who had a patient die from a surgically-induced defect and at least three other patients claim adverse reactions to his surgeries has been publicly reprimanded by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice for unethical and unprofessional conduct.
Dr. Stefan J. Konasiewicz received the reprimand from the medical board on Sept. 11. In order to practice medicine in Minnesota for the next two years, Konasiewicz must obtain a pre-approved supervising physician, specializing in neurological surgery, who has to observe at least five surgeries performed by Konasiewicz per quarter. And he must meet quarterly with a designated board member.
However, Konasiewicz has moved to Texas, where he is listed on the website of the South Texas Brain and Spine Center, with offices in Corpus Christi and Victoria, Texas, as a staff neurosurgeon.
Konasiewicz couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday and did not return a message sent to his Facebook page.
The Board of Medical Practice cited four of Konasiewicz’s patients in its reprimand:
Konasiewicz is being represented by St. Paul attorney Mark Solheim, who was reached in Missoula, Mont., on Thursday night as he was about to board a plane.
“Neurosurgeons are engaged in a real high-risk and highly specialized practice of medicine,’’ Solheim said.
“I think it is worth emphasizing that Dr. Konasiewicz has literally performed thousands of procedures involving major trauma, brain, spine and neurologic issues without any complications. We now are faced regrettably with plaintiffs’ attorney and others who are filing lawsuits and making claims as it relates to four patients. Ironically, and I think most significantly, is that the only case involving Dr. Konasiewicz that has gone to trial before a jury found that he was not negligent and didn’t deviate from the standard of care. So we are talking about four patients over a stellar career with thousands of procedures that are highly risky and highly specialized involving the brain, spine, neurologic conditions and major trauma.”
Online records dated Sept. 23, 2010, from the Texas Medical Board show no sanction or reprimands against Konasiewicz in that state. The Texas site also includes a space for “Disciplinary Actions By Other State Medical Boards” and notes “The physician has reported … none.”
Solheim said his client voluntarily entered into a stipulated agreement with the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice and was agreeable to allow his license to become inactive in Minnesota because he was relocating to Texas.
Under the terms of the stipulation and order from the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice, the reprimand will not be construed as an admission or finding in any civil proceeding, and will have no evidentiary value in any action or proceeding in any forum or process other than proceedings before the board.
According to St. Louis County court records, Konasiewicz was sued for malpractice in a case that was settled short of trial last year. No information regarding the settlement was in the court file.
There are two active malpractice lawsuits against Konasiewicz in Northeastern Minnesota. One of the suits was filed by a Cloquet man who declined to comment Thursday without first talking to his attorney, but said he was having a difficult time holding the phone because of what Konasiewicz did to him.
Dr. William Himango, who was employed as a neurosurgeon at St. Luke’s at the same time as Konasiewicz, also was reached by phone.
“The problems confronting this physician had — not only by me, but by others — been brought to the attention of the administration prior to some of these incidents,’’ Himango, now retired, told the News Tribune. He declined further comment.
Reached at a medical conference in Brainerd on Thursday night, St. Luke’s President and CEO John Strange said he couldn’t comment on Konasiewicz’s reprimand because he didn’t know anything about it. When asked if Himango or others had brought their concerns to him, Strange said he couldn’t comment about employees.
Konasiewicz earned his medical degree from Queens University Faculty of Medicine in Kingston, Ontario, Canada in 1989. According to biographical information posted on the South Texas Brain and Spine website, he completed his residency and a fellowship at the University of Toronto. He joined St. Luke’s as a neurosurgeon with the Duluth Neurosurgical Institute in 1997.
His biography states that he has received numerous national and international awards and has published extensively in the field of neurosurgery. It also states that he has lectured and taught nationally and internationally on spine and head trauma, as well as complex and minimally invasive spinal surgery.