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Poor Performance Records Are Easily Outdistanced

Ted Vives sued the medical center and the women's health group, the midwife and Johnson, saying the facilities should not have hired Johnson, given her record at Duke.

"Alex was born at 11:55 a.m. I was on the phone to everyone in the family shouting the wonderful news," Vives wrote in an e-mail to The Post. "Three hours later, I had to deliver to these same people the most unimaginable, saddest news: Gwyn was dead."

Monia Thomas sued Pamela Johnson and Duke University Medical Center after her intestine was nicked during a tubal ligation. (Karen Tam For The Washington Post)

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Lie Leads to Suspension

Gwyn Vives. Jean Challacombe. Tanya Lewis. In each case, patients or their families alleged that Johnson botched what should have been routine procedures at Los Alamos.

Challacombe alleged in a lawsuit that Johnson tore her bowel and uterus while doing a dilation and curettage the same day Vives died. In a separate lawsuit, Lewis accused Johnson of doing an unnecessary hysterectomy. In both cases, Johnson filed documents in court denying the allegations.

Challacombe settled her case in 2003, and the Vives suit was settled last year, both for undisclosed amounts, according to an attorney familiar with the cases who requested anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. The Lewis case is pending.

Johnson's attorney in New Mexico, Ben Allen, did not return two telephone calls seeking comment. Green, the spokesman for Banner Health, said the hospital erred by giving Johnson surgical privileges.

"In hindsight, from a procedural point of view, she probably should not have been credentialed to do procedures in the hospital," Green said.

In March 2002, three months after Vives died, Johnson was told that she must have a proctor present to perform surgery, according to a court deposition.

Los Alamos hospital officials subsequently learned about Johnson's troubles at Duke when questions arose about patient complications and an investigation was conducted. She resigned during the investigation, according to the former hospital official.

In December 2002, 13 months after issuing Johnson a license, the New Mexico Medical Board suspended it for "fraud and misrepresentation," records show, because she lied on her application. But notice of that five-month suspension didn't make it into the data bank until July 2004, after an inquiry from a Post reporter.

"It was an oversight on our part," said Felmley, the spokeswoman for the New Mexico board.

Los Alamos sent a report to the data bank, saying that Johnson "resigned while under investigation," the former hospital official said. But by that time, Johnson had moved to Michigan and been given a license there after, once again, she lied on her application.

When the Michigan medical board discovered the lie more than a year later, it put her on probation and restricted her to practicing in a university residency program in preventive medicine.

State licensing officials acknowledged that they failed to check the data bank.

"We don't check the data bank for new applicants," said Ray Garza, a spokesman for the Michigan Bureau of Health Professions, citing a lack of staff and resources. "We trust people to be honest on their application."

Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt and database editor Sarah Cohen contributed to this report.

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