AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Gun was main concern when Atlanta hospital suspended surgeon, court says

An Atlanta plastic surgeon reportedly said she was the reincarnation of ax murderer Lizzie Borden. She may have said the military wanted to hire her for her psychic powers, and that the government may be after her because she removed a microchip implanted in a patient in the federal witness protection program.

But those statements weren't the primary reason that Northside Hospital suspended Dr. Susan Kolb, according to a recent opinion by the Georgia Court of Appeals in a long-running court battle.

Instead, according to testimony in the case, Northside acted primarily because Kolb said she had to carry a gun at the hospital after she was the target of repeated assassination attempts.

Whether her statements were true or not, hospital officials had testified, the gun itself was the main concern behind Kolb's suspension.

"To me, if...you're delusional and you have a gun on campus, we've got a problem. And, on the other hand, if there are assassins after you and you're aware of this and you feel you need a gun to protect yourself, then our staff and patients are still in danger of being caught in the crossfire...So either way, I just could not see...avoiding the suspension," Dr. Wayne L. Ambroze, vice chairman of the hospital's Medical Executive Committee, had testified.

In a ruling first reported by Courthouse News Service, the appeals court upheld a trial court's decision that Kolb had no case against the hospital and couldn't recover damages.

In her appeal of the trial court's summary judgment in Northside's favor, Kolb contended the hospital had improperly focused on her religious and spiritual beliefs. When the committee took the action back in 2007, it had cited a "reasonable suspicion of impairment" because of statements she reportedly had made.

To get her privileges back, the committee had notified her, she could either submit to a medical and psychiatric evaluation or ask for a fair hearing.

She chose the hearing before a committee of hospital directors. When it upheld the suspension, she sued. Her appeal of the ruling by the trial court argued that it gave undue deference to the hospital's decision. That deference, she said, should apply only when a physician's privileges are suspended based on professional competency.

But her care of patients was not at issue, she said.

She also said the hospital improperly focused on her religion, broke its own bylaws and suspended her without an investigation.

An appeals court panel unanimously rejected those arguments. Judge Carla McMillian wrote that evidence Kolb presented was not enough to overcome the presumption that the hospital acted in the reasonable belief that her suspension helped to further quality health care.

"Northside cited a reasonable suspicion of impairment based on reports that she had made statements indicating she carried a gun because there was a bounty on her head; the DeKalb County police had recommended that she carry a weapon after three assassination attempts against her; the government may be after her because she removed a microchip implanted in a patient in the federal witness protection program; she is the reincarnation of Lizzie Borden; the military wanted to hire her "to conduct remote viewing through out-of-body experiences”; and that she used her psychic powers to help people find things."

A notice of intent to appeal the case to the Supreme Court was filed July 3.

Kolb's profile on the Georgia Composite Medical Board's website shows she currently does not hold staff privileges at any hospital. On the profile, she wrote that she works at Plastikos Surgery Center, which was established as a holistic surgery center, and that she also hosts a radio program on holistic medicine.

She is still actively licensed, and the medical board has taken no public disciplinary action against her.





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About the Author

Lois Norder is Senior Editor for Investigations in the newsroom at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.