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Woman left on operating table sues North Shore Univ. Hospital

Handout of Jennifer Ronca and her husband, Michael.

Handout of Jennifer Ronca and her husband, Michael. Jennifer was abandoned on the operating table by North Shore University surgeons during brain surgery on April 10, 2009. Dr. Paolo Bolognese, and chief of neurosurgery Thomas Milhorat, were the doctors involved. Photo Credit: Handout/Handout

A woman left on an operating table waiting for brain surgery filed a lawsuit Thursday against North Shore University Hospital and two neurosurgeons.

The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Mineola, follows sanctions by the state health department. Last Friday, the state cited the Manhasset hospital for 14 violations after two neurosurgeons failed to operate on Jennifer Ronca, 32, of Tunkhannock, Pa.

On April 10, Ronca underwent the first part of a two-part brain surgery. But the neurosurgeon scheduled to do the second operation that day, Dr. Paolo Bolognese, was out of town.

The hospital's chief of neurosurgery, Dr. Thomas Milhorat, refused to step in to do the surgery. A week later, the hospital suspended both surgeons for three weeks. Milhorat retired soon after. Bolognese remains on staff.

In the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, Ronca charges the doctors and hospital with "carelessness and negligence."

Speaking for the two surgeons, the hospital and other defendants named in the suit, lawyer Anthony M. Sola of Manhattan said it was "unfortunate that a miscommunication led to this incident."

But he said that Ronca "was not injured, and her surgery was rescheduled and performed successfully several weeks later at North Shore University Hospital. We will defend this matter, and we trust when all the facts come out, a jury will see this case for what it is."

Ronca's attorney, Mark L. Bodner of Manhattan, said, however, that she still has "serious, ongoing medical problems."

"My concern is that if they view this as mere miscommunication, then they don't recognize how very serious the systemic breakdown was for that day," Bodner said. "This has deeply affected Jennifer. We are seeking punitive damages for that very reason. We want to drive home how important patient safety is."

Bodner would not say how much money they are seeking.

The lawsuit also names the orthopedic surgeon who did the first surgery, the anesthesiologists and the Chiari Institute, which Milhorat also headed.

The Chiari Institute treats a relatively rare condition affecting Ronca called Chiari malformation. In that disorder, some of the lower part of the brain has moved into the spinal canal.

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