A New Jersey hospital where heart surgeon Donal M. Billig was once evaluated as incompetent said yesterday it had provided "full and complete" information about his employment there to Bethesda Naval Hospital in 1983. Three months later, Bethesda Naval, which had recently hired Billig, gave him full clinical privileges and then promoted him.
Billig, 54, was told last week he could no longer practice at Bethesda, based on a review of his performance there. Yesterday, the surgeon, who has declined to discuss questions about his practice, appealed that decision and will have his case reviewed by officials of the Naval Medical Command, a Navy spokesman said.
The Navy yesterday detailed the chronology of Billig's hiring and promotion, the same day officials at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, N.J., released a statement saying they had written about Billig to the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners in 1981 and Bethesda Naval Hospital in 1983.
"We responded to a request by . . . Bethesda Naval Hospital for employment history concerning Dr. Billig and we made a full and complete disclosure," said Justin Doheny, Monmouth's vice president for strategic planning and marketing.
"We explained what transpired of his entire association with us. I am not at liberty to discuss the specifics," Doheny said.
According to court records, a review panel of six doctors at Monmouth told Billig in April 1980 that, based on a review of 150 cases he had handled, they believed he lacked good judgment, proper motivation, competence and honesty. The review panel told Billig then it would restrict his surgery and wanted him to resign.
Lt. Alan Goldstein, a public affairs spokesman, confirmed yesterday that the Navy received the employment history from Monmouth officials in March 1983. Goldstein said he could not say why Billig then received permanent credentials followed by a promotion to head the hospital's cardio-thoracic department three months later.
On Monday, a Navy board will begin a hearing centering on Billig's recruitment and promotion at Bethesda, Goldstein said.
According to Navy records, Billig was commissioned by the Navy in December 1982 and appointed to the Bethesda hospital the following month.
He received temporary credentials based on a preliminary review of his license and experience -- a standard procedure in the Navy -- and permanent credentials in March after a more stringent review, Goldstein said.
In June 1983, Billig was chosen to head the cardio-thoracic unit of the hospital, Goldstein said.
Three years earlier, officials at Monmouth Medical Center had fought a court battle with Billig over an effort to restrict his surgical practice there.
Billig, a cum laude graduate of the University of Louisville School of Medicine who had held teaching posts at Tufts University and Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital of Philadelphia, produced outside experts who said his work was proper and he charged that the review panel was motivated by personal jealousies rather than professional concern.
Billig's request for an injunction against the hospital was denied in May 1980 by a New Jersey Superior Court judge who ruled that the hospital had the right to restrict the doctor's surgery regardless of his competency, according to court records. Shortly after that, Monmouth officials said yesterday, they informed the New Jersey medical board about their concerns over Billig.
That board began an investigation but dropped it when Billig, who is licensed in several states, asked the board to retire his license, a spokesman for the board said.