Updated Monday, Jan. 9, 1:06 p.m.
Four-and-a-half years ago, one of Western New York’s leading pediatric surgeons was censured by the New York Department of Health for negligence and professional misconduct.
Today, she’s back at the operating table, licensed to perform surgery in four states. But she’s left Buffalo behind, selling her house here and setting up a new practice in Roanoke, Virginia.
In April 2018, pediatric surgeon Dr. Kathryn Bass — then director of trauma at John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital — was hit with a formal reprimand and two years of probation by the state health department after she agreed to not contest one charge of negligence. She denied all of the remaining charges.
The health department said Bass had “deviated from accepted standards of care or failed to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent pediatric surgeon would have exercised under similar circumstances.”
Among other allegations, the health department charged that Bass:
- Performed a colostomy on a six-year-old using the wrong end of the patient’s colon.
- Oversaw an operation during which a large surgical clip was mistakenly placed across a premature baby’s airway.
- Attempted to perform surgery on a six-month-old baby after failing to document that she’d already done the procedure, on the same patient, several months earlier.
Investigative Post reported in detail on the allegations against Bass, which dated back to 2012, in April 2019. She was halfway through her two-year probation at the time. That report, by Charlotte Keith, is the second-most read story in Investigative Post’s 10-year history and continues to generate reader interest.
Bass is now practicing at the Carilion Children’s Pediatric Surgery clinic in Roanoke. Virginia granted her a license in June 2021, just over a year after her probation in New York ended.
Bass is also licensed in Texas and Illinois, her home state. Medical boards in all three states reviewed New York’s disciplinary actions and dismissed them as “not legitimate,” according to Bass’s Texas Medical Board profile.
New York’s health department lifted Bass’s probation in April 2020, after two years. While she was permitted to practice during her probation, another surgeon had to visit her practice and review her records. Her license in New York will expire Sept. 30 of this year.
Last March, she sold her house on Soldiers Place in Buffalo for $999,999, according to public records.
We asked Bass for an interview for this story. We also asked her for the proceedings of the state boards of Illinois, Texas and Virginia, which are not available online. She did not respond prior to publication.
After this story was published, the Carilion Clinic emailed statements from Bass and the head of the clinic’s surgery department.
“I am saddened that this has become a focus again after so many years,” Bass wrote in her statement. “As a pediatric surgeon, I am a keeper of the most precious and vulnerable, and I work with families day in and day out to ensure a healthier quality of life for their children. I demand of myself complete commitment to taking excellent care of my patients, which is what I have always done and will always continue to do.”
Dr. Michael Nussbaum, senior vice president and chair of Carilion’s Department of Surgery, defended the clinic’s hiring of Bass.
“Carilion thoroughly vetted Dr. Bass for nearly a year during her recruitment, which included speaking to many highly respected peers in her field as well as leaders at her previous institution. Her abilities and commitment to her patients were uniformly praised,” Nussbaum wrote.
For our original story, Investigative Post interviewed Dr. David Tuggle, a pediatric surgeon from Austin, Texas, who Bass enlisted as an expert witness when she was fighting New York’s misconduct charges. Tuggle said Bass’s punishment was “a ridiculous travesty of justice” and that she had “met or exceeded the standard of care” in each of the cases that led to her reprimand and probation.
The other experts Investigative Post interviewed disagreed.
A former attorney for Kaleida Health, which runs Oishei Children’s Hospital, told Investigative Post that the charges against Bass were “serious, documented errors.” A retired professor of surgery at UB’s medical school said “there was no excuse” for the type of misconduct New’s York’s health department alleged.
New York’s investigators also faulted Kaleida Health’s quality control. In 2012, in response to complaints about Bass and others, state investigators said they saw “no evidence” Kaleida’s pediatric surgery department was evaluating quality of care in “a timely manner” and noted six months of the hospital’s internal quality assurance reports were missing.
Back in 2019, Michael Hughes — senior vice president at Kaleida in charge of communications — refused to answer questions about those findings. Nor would Kaleida share a corrective action plan it provided the state health department, even when presented with a request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law.
Hughes did not respond to a request for comment for this story, either.
The Carilion Clinic, where Bass now performs surgery, is Roanoke’s principal hospital, with multiple facilities and partnerships with Virginia Tech university and other academic institutions. Bass is accepting new patients, according to her page on the clinic’s website.