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St. Joseph's Hospital responds to allegation of patient abuse

Ryan Delaney
St. Joseph's hospital on Syracuse's north side.

Updated, 3:40 p.m.:

St. Joseph's Hospital is responding to allegations of misbehavior against a former doctor, saying it reacted quickly and thoroughly.

The hospital said it became aware of complaints involving inappropriate actions and vulgar language -- reportedly involving the slapping of sedated patients -- in its operating rooms in December.

The hospital faces sanctions and disciplinary actions over the charges, stemming from a federal investigation.

In a letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to St. Joseph's Hospital administrators, regulators say the hospital is not in compliance with Medicare Conditions of Participation and could be booted from the program.

The actions of the doctor did not uphold the standards and mission of the hospital, its president and chief executive, Kathy Ruscitto, said in a statement.

"Once administration became aware of these issues, prompt action was taken to address them, working closely with our physicians, nursing and support staff, and the Department of Health," Ruscitto said. "Immediate disciplinary actions were taken with the physician and staff involved."

The hospital and a federal complaint first obtained by The Post-Standard do not name the doctor. But the newspaper and other media outlets tie the complaint to orthopedic surgeon Dr. Michael Clarke. Clarke now works for Crouse Hospital.

The Onondaga County District Attorney's office confirmed to WRVO that it is investigating Clarke, but would not comment further.

The state health department confirmed it has been conducting an investigative survey on behalf of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. A health department spokesman said investigations into individual doctors are confidential and could not confirm or deny one was open involving Clarke.

Messages left for Clarke's attorney have not been returned yet.