VA Surgeon Paid Hefty Salary Without Performing Any Clinical Duties
Neurosurgeon Mohamed Eleraky was terminated in August 2016, allegedly following his questionable treatment of five patients. However, despite being let go by G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center, he has continued to receive a $339,177 annual salary.
In 2013, Eleraky performed a spinal fusion on a male patient who has chosen to remain anonymous. “Things did not turn out well for me at all,” the patient, who is a service veteran in his 60s, said in an interview. “I couldn’t move my head. I couldn’t turn my head to the side very far. For the longest, I couldn’t lift my arms over my shoulder. I seem to be slowly getting better but there’s some problems I’m still having.” First, the man said he got an infection, then the VA sent him to the University of Mississippi Medical Center “for them to redo something that had went wrong.” He has only recently, four years after surgery, regained feeling in his right hand.
Eleraky was able to return to work in April after an investigation by the VA Disciplinary Appeals Board found local officials failed to prove their claims that Eleraky did not properly assess his patients or deviated from surgical protocols. Jackson VA Director David Walker confirmed “(Eleraky) is not in a patient care position, nor will he ever be until it is clear he has the requisite skills to practice neurosurgery.” Instead, the VA has paid Eleraky a salary worth more than $1 million over three years for “sitting in his office with no job responsibilities.”
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs provided a statement indicating if officials do not believe the neurosurgeon is capable of performing surgical duties, he should be transferred to a nonsurgical clinical position with a lower salary. If medical center administrators believe he cannot provide patient care altogether, he should be terminated or given an administrative, non-clinical position with corresponding pay.
In 2015, Eleraky filed a complaint in federal court against the VA center, alleging their initial suspension of his operating privileges and a second suspension of his entire clinical privileges one year later was uncalled for. Eleraky’s complaint alleges he was inappropriately disciplined for “his initial refusal to amend certain patient records until ordered to do so, his ethnicity and any related speech pattern issues, and in retaliation for his filing of an EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) complaint.”
Eleraky’s lawsuit claims officials did not explain the reasons for his suspension, nor did he receive a fair disciplinary hearing. Eleraky’s attorney, Whitman Johnson III, said only that his client was suspended due to a complication that is “actually a common outcome for this type of procedure.” He added, “Dr. Eleraky’s privileges remained suspended with no results or action taken for over two years. During that time, he was relegated to sitting in his office with no job responsibilities, effectively stigmatizing him.” Johnson alleged further that the VA “intentionally held Dr. Eleraky in limbo by progressively expanding and extending his ‘temporary’ suspensions with no apparent intent to reach a decision in the hope that he eventually resigns on his own.”
The VA eventually fired the doctor in August 2016 after he complained to its headquarters about his inability to resolve the case. He is now awaiting direction from the VA on taking a skills- assessment exam so he can regain surgical privileges. Meanwhile, VA Secretary David Shulkin has instructed the agency to perform a comprehensive review to see if there are other physicians in the system being paid clinical salaries while not performing their duties.