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August 29, 1995
Author: Tom Pelton, Tribune Staff Writer
A Lake Bluff medical laboratory has decided to replace its executive director in the wake of allegations that a doctor in the lab lost a tissue sample and replaced it with a sample from another patient. Dr. Joseph Patlovich, executive director of Consolidated Medical Laboratories, was informed by the lab’s board on Monday that it is seeking a new person to head the lab’s day-to-day operations, said James Ferguson, an attorney representing the boards of the lab’s co-owners, Lake Forest Hospital and Highland Park Hospital
“This is the result of administrative considerations that the (hospital boards) were considering for a period prior to the incident,” Ferguson said. “We have found nothing to call into question the excellent medical service provided by Dr. Patlovich and his associates.”
The incident occurred on May 10, when a 47-year-old McHenry County woman went to the Northern Illinois Medical Center in McHenry complaining that she was suffering from vaginal bleeding. The patient later learned that she was not suffering from any disease but was only experiencing the onset of menopause. But when her tissue samples were sent to Consolidated Medical Laboratories, which handles cancer tests for the hospital, one of the samples reportedly was lost.
The pathologist who was supposed to examine the samples, Dr. William Janes, then allegedly tried to cover up the loss by ordering a technician to replace it with a tissue sample taken from another woman. After the technician complained to her supervisors, Janes was fired by the physicians’ group that examines tissue samples for the lab, Pathology and Nuclear Medicine Associates of Lake Bluff. Northern Illinois Medical Center decided not to renew its contract with the lab after investigating the incident.
Patlovich, Janes’ boss at the time, was not fired. He will continue to work as a pathologist at the lab and will remain on the lab’s executive committee, which has general oversight over the lab, Ferguson said.
The doctors’ group claims Janes was suffering from depression and was medicating himself with Prozac when he committed the ” fraud ” by trying to switch the tissue samples, according to an Aug. 17 letter the doctors group wrote to Ashley Maentz, the chairman of the Lake Forest Hospital board of directors.
Janes never reported his “history of depression” as he should have when he applied for staff privileges at the hospitals the lab serves, according to the letter from the doctors at Pathology and Nuclear Medicine Associates. “There is certainly no evidence of a pattern of fraudulent conduct or unethical behavior. The issue is, rather, one depressed co-worker whose condition was unrecognized by all,” read the letter, co-signed by Patlovich and four other doctors.
Janes’ attorney, Tom Conley, on Monday denied that his client had a history of depression that he had tried to hide from his superiors. Janes began prescribing Prozac to himself in January 1995 to fight stress and anxiety his bosses were causing by giving him too much work, Conley said. Conley said the doctors group failed to hire additional physicians when it boosted its workload in October 1994 by adding a third hospital to its list of clients.
As a result, Janes found himself with increasing responsibilities but not enough help, Conley said. “Dr. Patlovich created an environment which discouraged people from complaining or saying the workload was too much, because if they did they would be branded as lazy and essentially blacklisted,” Conley said. Conley said his client made a mistake by asking the lab technician to take a tissue sample from another patient to replace the lost sample.
But Conley added that the mistake caused no harm, because only one of two tissue samples was lost. With even one sample, Janes had enough tissue to conduct an accurate test. “We admit he made a mistake. Fortunately, it was a mistake that did not affect the patient’s care,” Conley said.
Patlovich is a well-respected pathologist who served from 1990 to 1992 as the president of the American Pathology Foundation, a professional organization for doctors, according to Edward Stygar, executive director of the foundation. The current president of the organization, Dr. Winston Hollister, said on Monday that he was disturbed to learn that Patlovich had been removed from his position as executive director of Consolidated Medical Laboratories. Hollister said that Patlovich should not be punished for the “unethical” behavior of a subordinate.
“God forbid, every time a subordinate does something wrong you kill the chief,” Hollister said
Record Number: CTR9508290275
Copyright 1995, Chicago Tribune