Dr. Paul A. Kearney

Paul A. Kearney is one of the most respected, experienced award winning professors and surgeons at the medical center at the University of Kent. He was the one who was responsible for building the trauma center from scratch. According to supporters, he has saved thousands of lives in his 27 year tenure at the UK. One man even donated a sum of $1 million to the university in Kearney’s name in order to endow a chair. Many residents and students have been inspired by him thanks to the advice, dedication and help he’s given with regard to their careers. But he has been described as profane, rude and verbally abusive to staff and patients. He’s a doctor who no longer meets UK HealthCare standards, according to university administrators. He works as a surgeon and professor at the University of Kentucky medical center. A committee of 3 UK Board of Trustees members will scrutinize his complicated personality at 2 p.m. Friday. They will decide whether to permanently revoke his medical privileges in the UK. This will end his career effectively. UK officials say that a committee like this has not been convened ever, in the 50 year long history of the medical center. No one has fought this long to keep their jobs, they say.
Kearney has been reprimanded, warned and punished for 20 years. He allegedly cursed at a patient last August, and this left the administration no choice but to fire him. Bernard Boulanger, UK Chief Medical Officer said that hospital cultures have seen many changes over time, but that they were at a point where verbal abuse of a patient would not be tolerated.
Kearney continues pursuing a whistleblower lawsuit against the university that he filed, even though his lawyer Bernard Pafunda expects the trustees to agree with the administration. He says he shouldn’t be fired for having an abrasive personality and that his only crime was that he challenged Michael Karpf, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs. He was quoted as saying that the whole matter was simple in an interview. He said it was about Michael Karpf, who had control and access over a quarter billion dollars. This, he said, came from physician revenues which are outside the purview of the board of trustees. He also added that the reason that people got beat down in the system in which he worked was because they questioned Karpf. That exact same thing had happened to him, he alleged. Officials from UK deny any sort of retaliation. They have actually moved to dismiss the lawsuit. Karpf himself did not agree to be interviewed as part of this story.
Kearney was cited in 1992, 2000, 2005 and 2009 for offences against staff and coworkers, according to documents in his personnel file. These offenses include being offensive, loud, rude and arrogant towards staff members. He also behaved unprofessionally in the operating room and during the care of a trauma patient. It says that he had a totally uncalled for profanity laced outburst right in front of the trauma patient. He hit one of the nurses on the shoulder in 2012, and received a written reprimand following complaints from her and two others.
An action plan was drafted after this, and Kearney agreed to make sure his behavior wasn’t like that again. He pledged to refrain from any such unprofessional conduct when he was interacting with personnel from UK. He said he would be the last person to say he was perfect, but that in his business, even one wrong choice could kill someone. He said in the heat of the moment, people said things that they shouldn’t, and that those things can always be apologized for later – however, there is no apologizing if someone dies.
A patient’s mother complained in September 2014 that Kearney had called her quadriplegic son a fucking idiot and also yelled at staff during a procedure. He made inappropriate remarks during one of his lectures and student complained in August 2014. He was put on indefinite leave with pay on the 5th of September 2014. Boulanger suspended clinical privileges of Kearney in January. He was banned from campus, blocked from sending email, forbidden from speaking with staff, students, faculty or residents and had his office locked. As a tenured faculty member, he still gets $350,000 a year.
A 13-physician group that made up the Medical Staff Executive Committee voted to uphold the suspension of Kearney’s clinical privileges In February 2015. In May, 3 UK physicians of the Fair Hearing Board upheld the suspension even though Kearney appealed to them.
UK has established a pattern of getting rid of people to speak out, says Kearney. Former UK HealthCare CFO Sergio Melgar left the university in 2012 abruptly for the same reason, apparently.
The full health care committee of the board of trustees will uphold or reject the decision of the panel following Friday’s hearing. It is not clear yet about the status of Kearney’s tenure.

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