AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Six Maine military veterans are waiting for a federal judge in Portland to decide if they will be allowed to sure the Veterans Administration.
Those veterans all say they had foot or ankle surgery at the Togus VA hospital, and that the doctor botched the operations. That doctor left in 2008, but the veterans say they still suffer pain and other problems.
Army veteran Steve Turner of Topsham isn’t involved in the lawsuit but said Wednesday he also suffered at the hands of the same doctor.
Turner told NEWS CENTER his foot was operated on in early 2008 because of injuries sustained during his 13 years in the Army. He said there were problems soon after the first surgery and the doctor did a second operation. He said the foot then became badly infected and swollen and that only an emergency operation by a different doctor saved his foot.
Turner said it still causes him pain. He said the VA contacted him in 2010 and arranged a meeting, at which time it apologized, and blamed the doctor.
“They were very apologetic about what happened to me,” he said, “and went step by step what [the doctor’s] discrepancies were during surgery, what he should have done., and not done.”
VA officials on Wednesday would not answer questions about the situation, referring all inquiries to the U.S. attorney’s office.
In 2014, NEWS CENTER reported on a similar case involving a Hampden man, who said he had also suffered pain and continuing problems because of a failed ankle surgery s by the same doctor. At that time, VA Togus director Ryan Lilly confirmed it had been dealing with a number of foot and ankle surgeries that had turned out badly.
Lilly said the staff had been alerted to the problems by patients, had contacted the doctor’s patients to apologize and offer to pay for whatever further care was required.
Lilly was asked how many patients suffered problems. “We’re talking less than 100,” he replied at that time.
Neither the VA nor the U.S. Attorney would say Thursday how many total patients were affected.
Steve Turner said he does not blame the VA, but blames the doctor, and would “like to sue him personally,” if he could.
Lawyers knowledgeable about the case told NEWS CENTER the doctor cannot be sued personally because he was working for the VA at the time.
That doctor is believed to be living in the New York City area, where an internet search showed he has been working at a medical practice. A receptionist at that practice said Wednesday the doctor no longer worked there.
The lawsuits by the six veterans are aimed at the VA, seeking permission to sue the government even though Maine’s statute of limitations has expired. Lawyers said oral arguments are scheduled for later this month and a ruling could come this fall.