A surgeon at Nassau University Medical Center tried to strangle a registered nurse with an “elastic cord” after they had a disagreement, police said Tuesday.
Venkatesh Sasthakonar, 44, was upset Monday with the nurse because she had given medication to one of his patients at the wrong time, according to the complaint against him.
The doctor then took the elastic cord off his sweatshirt and tightened it around the nurse’s neck, causing her to gasp for air, according to the complaint.
Sasthakonar told her “I should kill you for this,” the complaint said.
He left the hospital and was taken into custody by Nassau police after returning hours later, authorities said.
Police did not release the name of the nurse, 51. She was treated at NUMC for “substantial pain” to her neck and released, police said.
Sasthakonar, of Old Searingtown Road in Albertson, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Tuesday on charges of felony second-degree strangulation and misdemeanor third-degree assault. He was released on $3,500 cash bail, and an order of protection was issued against him, according to online court records.
His attorney, Melvyn Roth of Garden City, said the strangulation charge was “overblown” and the surgeon did not intend to hurt the nurse over the injection of medicine.
“There was no intent in this situation to do any harm to the nurse whatsoever,” Roth said. “They’ve worked together for 10 years without any kind of incident . . . We look forward to defending this in court.”
The doctor performs weight loss operations and heads the hospital’s bariatric surgery department, according to both Roth and the hospital’s website.
An NUMC spokesman Tuesday said the hospital is cooperating with the police investigation and has taken action against Sasthakonar. “At no time was patient safety affected,” Brian Finnegan said in emailed statement. “The doctor has been suspended until further notice.”
Roth said his client was half-upset and half-joking in his actions.
“It was blown out of proportion,” the attorney said. “He just wanted to let her know that she had done something that was not according to protocol.”
Roth said he does not believe the nurse had serious injuries and said the patient did not suffer any ill effects.
A 2008 hospital news release indicated Sasthakonar was hired as a member of the hospital’s bariatric surgery department because he was “skilled in performing laparoscopic obesity surgeries with excellent results.”