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BY JIM HALL
A committee of the Virginia Board of Medicine has recommended that a Culpeper surgeon be reprimanded for an "egregious pattern of disruptive behavior."
The committee said Dr. Benjamin Allen interfered with patient care when he argued with an anesthesiologist in the presence of a surgical patient, jokingly told hospital staff that he needed operating-room time to redo a patient's knee surgery, and stapled the arm of an operating-room nurse while "playing around."
The committee said that Allen's actions were a violation of state law, and it fined him $1,500. The disciplinary action took place Jan. 16 after a public hearing in Richmond.
Allen apologized to the committee and said he was embarrassed by his actions.
"This has been a humbling journey for me," he said in a phone interview Monday. "I never put any patients in danger."
Allen is an orthopedic surgeon who has worked in the Culpeper area for more than 30 years. At various times, he has been chief of surgery, a member of the board of trustees and president of the medical staff at Culpeper Regional Hospital.
He was summoned to appear before the committee following a series of incidents at the hospital, dating to 2009. They included:
A March 2012 incident when he performed a total knee replacement on a patient.
He arranged with the hospital staff to place the patient on the operating-room schedule for a second surgery to the same knee for two days later, the board said.
Allen said he was joking about the need for a second surgery, but several members of the hospital staff were not aware that the surgery was a joke. They prepared the room for surgery, according to board documents.
At least one other surgeon at the hospital requested surgical time, but could not get it because of the "joke" surgery, the board said.
In addition, the patient was upset when she "learned that she had been scheduled for revision surgery," the board document says.
Allen said Monday that the patient's surgery was a success. He called the scheduling clerk to arrange the second surgery as a joke, he said, because a computer had acted up during the original surgery.
He said he called back 30 minutes later to cancel the surgery and was "astounded" to learn that it was not removed from the schedule.
Culpeper Regional has been monitoring Allen's behavior for two years and required him to complete an anger-management course at the University of Virginia and to undergo neuropsychiatric testing, according to documents from the Virginia Board of Medicine.
H. Lee Kirk Jr., president and CEO at Culpeper Regional, told the board in a Jan. 15 letter that, "Dr. Allen's professional conduct and decorum has improved and there have been no behavioral incidents resulting in action by the medical staff."