PRESS RELEASE - Presbyterian Healthcare Services found liable for $22,803,400 for damaging highly decorated Veteran and failing to provide quality doctors for its patients.

            After 8 days of testimony and 8 hours of deliberation a jury in Sandoval County found Presbyterian Healthcare Services and two of its physicians, urologic surgeon Christopher Gist, MD and general surgeon Kevin Hudenko, MD negligent in the care of Armando Graham. Mr. Graham is retired career Air Force, serving in Panama, during Desert Shield and in law enforcement and security in deployments all over the world with his last station at Kirkland Air Force Base. After retirement he was a Manager for TSA and worked as Director of Security at many of the casinos in the state. Mr. Graham suffered a very brutal and severe injury during a surgery that he should have never had. 

            Presbyterian Healthcare Services failed completely in its duty to provide reasonably well  trained doctors to care for him at Presbyterian Rust Medical Center in Rio Rancho. Dr. Gist was hired with numerous settled lawsuits and went on to get dozens of patient and staff complaints against him at Presbyterian, yet nothing was done to oversee or correct his behavior. Dr. Gist was fired by Presbyterian for “arrogance” and “making too much money” according to Dr. Gist. Dr. Gist had a duty to give informed consent to Mr. Graham of his options for his very treatable prostate cancer. He instead told Mr. Graham and his family who were present for the final decision for treatment that only surgery was available to treat him. Discovery in the case revealed that Dr. Gist is paid only on productivity for Presbyterian. “RVU’s” are assigned to every procedure he does and the more RVU’s he does, the more he is paid. The average urologic surgeon according to Dr. Gist did 7,500 RVU’s a year, but Dr. Gist did 12,000. During Dr. Gist’s robotic surgery on Mr. Graham he lost 2 Liters of blood, almost 10 times the expected average blood loss and the surgery was almost 2 hours longer than usual, yet Dr. Gist documented that there were no complications. In reality, Mr. Graham came back to the Emergency Room days after discharge because Dr. Gist caused a hole in his rectum that caused a horrible raging infection and put him in septic shock.

            Presbyterian continued to keep on staff Dr. Hudenko who has been sued by 10 patients now in New Mexico. The majority of the cases were settled and another is still pending. Dr. Hudenko has no recognized Board Certification although Presbyterian represented up to 2022 that he was Board Certified by the American Board of Surgery which was untrue for over 5 years. Dr. Hudenko has not taken a board certifying examination since 2007, and his lawsuit history revealed he used old techniques, does them badly and his clients end up infected with many, many surgeries to correct his errors. In this case, Dr. Hudenko chose not to see Mr. Graham in the ER when he came with septic shock. Dr. Hudenko refused to know his limitations, and instead of getting a Board Certified surgeon of any kind, let alone the needed colorectal surgeon, he did surgery, predictably badly and caused Mr. Graham another 16 surgeries and procedures from his errors. 

            Mr. Graham has $820,000 in medical bills. The next major surgery will take place at the Mayo Clinic on June 16, 2023 and will cost $130,000. The surgeries are extremely personal in nature, have rendered him with severe and personal limitations on his freedom and dignity. The jury’s award of $22,803,400.00 contains $15 Million in punitive damages against Presbyterian for their reckless disregard for their patient’s safety. A $107,000 punitive damages award against Dr. Gist for his personal reckless disregard for Mr. Graham’s safety and the remainder is a compensatory award for all the losses suffered by Mr. Graham because of the Defendant’s negligence.

            The extremely engaged jury questioned the witnesses, in addition to the lawyers, and were the true voice for their community. They were careful in their award to be “fair” but still send a message to impact Presbyterian’s decision-making in the future. Presbyterian Healthcare Services has a net worth of $2.2 Billion and can afford to hire quality physicians for its patients. Let’s hope they get the message. Healthcare in New Mexico can be frankly, dangerous. Presbyterian has taken New Mexican’s money long enough and failed to provide quality care for the last 10 years. It is time for that to change. 

Curtis & Co. Curtis & Co.
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