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Surgeon who operated without insurance is suspended

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f6508 (Published 28 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6508
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

A surgeon who operated for nearly five years at private hospitals without indemnity insurance has been suspended for four months by a panel of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).

Ihimire Paul Okojie, who was employed by the NHS as a consultant surgeon, also practised at Nuneaton Private Hospital and at BMI’s Meriden Hospital in Warwickshire. He operated on approximately 260 patients between August 2007, when his insurance lapsed, and June 2012, when his practising privileges were suspended by the Meriden Hospital.

Okojie had been reminded by the hospital in 2006 that his Medical Defence Union indemnity insurance had lapsed. He switched to the Medical Protection Society, but when this membership expired in 2007, he failed to renew or replace it.

In December 2010 a surgical complication led to a malpractice complaint against him. He delayed replying to correspondence from the patient’s solicitors but in response to a December 2011 letter finally conceded that he had no insurance.

In June 2012 the solicitors informed Meriden Hospital’s chief executive. She called a meeting with Okojie, who admitted he had not been insured since 2007, claiming that financial difficulties had left him unable to afford coverage. The hospital reported him to the General Medical Council.

Okojie admitted all factual charges. He expressed contrition through his counsel and said that he had agreed a settlement with the injured patient, to be paid in instalments. He added that the lapse had begun during “the darkest period of my life,” when a painful divorce had affected him mentally and financially.

But counsel for the GMC disputed the claims of hardship, pointing to Okojie’s annual income and the value of the equity in his house. He had been warned about practising uninsured in 2006 but had knowingly continued operating without coverage until stopped by his employer.

Okojie’s claims of personal distress and hardship during this period were undermined, GMC counsel said, by the fact that he had obtained a law degree from the University of Coventry at the same time. He added that Okojie had still not raised the funds to compensate his injured patient, had not taken out a loan to do so, nor sold, mortgaged, or even valued his house. The GMC asked the panel to suspend him.

The panel agreed, judging a repeat offence unlikely and erasure too severe a penalty. Sandra Sturdy, who chaired the panel, said that Okojie had “failed to demonstrate adequate insight into the extent of your misconduct” and that his “limited insight persisted during this hearing.”

“When you gave evidence about the patient who alleged that you that were negligent, you described the situation largely in monetary terms. At no time did you express remorse about how long it took you to respond to her claim or the effect the situation would have had on her,” she told him.

But Okojie had an otherwise unblemished career, and the panel heard that he was “an experienced, competent, and highly valued medical practitioner.”

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6508

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