by Meredith Blake
October 9, 2008
After a 2006 surgery by Dr. Ian Rubins, the Greenwich plastic surgeon who died of a heroin overdose in January, Stamford resident Robin Lyons' breast swelled up to her collar bone.
A breast cancer survivor, Lyons, 54, said she had to undergo another mastectomy and three additional surgeries to correct it.
When she heard Rubins had been removed from the hospital for drug problems in 2007, and that the hospital had known about it since 1997, she was shocked.
"I find it incredible that Greenwich Hospital would allow this surgeon to perform surgeries on me or any woman, knowing he has a drug problem," she said.
Claiming hospital officials knew of Rubins' drug problems and knowingly kept him on staff and fraudulently promoted him as a top breast surgeon, a group of patients is suing Greenwich Hospital for unspecified damages.
Other plaintiffs include Carolyn Bateman of Tinton Falls, N.J.; Ena Coronado of Westport; Annette Batkin of Greenwich; Anne Russo of Port Chester, N.Y.; Paula Paluszek of Old Greenwich; Cindy DeLeo of Stamford; and Jane Dunn of Armonk, N.Y. All underwent surgeries from April 2001 to May 2007.
The lawsuit said the hospital knew about Rubins' problems but did not tell patients about them or the risks they presented.
According to the lawsuit, Greenwich Hospital spokesman George Pawlush stated publicly that the hospital first became aware of Rubins drug problems in 1997. It said Rubins arrived in the operating room at the hospital
visibly under the influence in April 2006.
After the surgeon's overdose death, hospital officials said Rubins was always under supervision and that patients were never in danger.
Rubins, who joined the staff at Greenwich Hospital in 1994, had also gone through two rehabilitation programs, starting in 1995, then again in January 2005, the lawsuit states.
Rubins resigned in 2007 after an allegation of substance abuse when a Greenwich Hospital surgical technician said she saw him take a syringe containing a powerful painkiller from an adjacent operating room and inject himself with it. Rubins admitted the action, saying he had long-standing back pain.
"How could such a wonderful hospital allow this to happen?" Lyons said. "My hope is that Greenwich Hospital will take some responsibility for the damage that this has caused to so many women. They shouldn't have allowed him privileges for so long."
The lawsuit further states that Greenwich Hospital misrepresented for profit the Greenwich Hospital Breast Center, where Rubins was a surgeon, and Rubins' surgical abilities.
"We're interested in making sure that the hospital puts the interests of its patients first," said attorney Sean McElligott of Bridgeport-based Koskoff, Koskoff, & Bieder. "The hospital must recognize that it's not just another business, because patients lives are at stake."
Pawlush declined to comment, saying hospital officials do not discuss pending litigation.
"However, it is our belief that this claim lacks merit," he said. "Greenwich Hospital is committed to the highest quality patient care. We continually rank among the top hospitals in the nation in patient satisfaction."
Lyons said she has seen many doctors at Greenwich Hospital and has never had an experience like this before.
"I still go to many doctors at Greenwich Hospital and have received wonderful care. I didn't think anything like this would happen," she said.
To proceed as a class action, the lawsuit must be certified by a judge.