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Petaluma doctor scrutinized over alleged botched surgeries

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When Mary Stompe, a decorated competitive runner, went to Petaluma podiatrist Peter Redko for a surgery to repair an ankle injury, she said he told her she’d run again within six months. Three years and three surgeries later, doctors say she may never run again, and she blames Redko.

“Running was a huge part of my identity,” the 54-year-old executive director of Petaluma-based nonprofit PEP Housing said. “It was a big deal … it was a big part of my life with my husband. Really the main activity that we did together was running. I can’t ski anymore, I can’t do any of the things we used to do. That’s all gone.”

Stompe said what should have been a simple tendon surgery turned into a nightmare after Redko allegedly botched the procedure, causing her years of suffering and costing thousands of dollars. She filed a complaint with the Board of Podiatric Medicine that eventually led to a five-year probation for Redko, during which time he will be barred from practicing tendon surgeries and having a solo medical practice. The probation was to begin April 6, but the board stayed the order until April 16 while it considers an appeal filed by Redko’s lawyer.

“It’s been terrible waiting,” Stompe said. “It’s very frustrating when you work with the government and you have to wait through this very long process, but I’m glad I stuck with it … it’s just such a long and arduous process and I think that’s why more claims aren’t filed.”

Redko, a 43-year-old podiatrist who has been practicing at the North Bay Foot and Ankle Center since 2004, was placed on a 35-month probation in 2013 after a bunion removal surgery that eventually led to the amputation of a 15-year-old girl’s toe and a second procedure on a separate patient that led to blood clots, according to accusations brought before the podiatry board.

Redko also has been sued in Sonoma County Superior Court at least five times for medical malpractice and professional negligence, according to court records dating back to 2007. Four of those cases have been dismissed, and exact details of those allegations were not available as the court destroys records of dismissed cases. The plaintiff in the most recent small claims court filing from February is seeking $10,000 and alleging medical malpractice as well as professional and medical negligence. The claimant did not return a call for comment.

Steven Teal, a Santa Rosa lawyer representing the plaintiffs in at least one of the cases, did not return multiple calls for comment. Redko’s lawyer, Tiburon-based Ronald Goldman, did not respond to requests for comment.

Redko, who also has done charity work with the nonprofit Revived Soldiers Ukraine, denied all allegations of malpractice.

“Who knows who these people are making these statements,” he said. “We do have a competitive environment and it could have come from one person – someone with an ulterior motive. I think we do good work here and we’ve been here for 15 years and we plan on continuing to do good work.”

He said the Board of Podiatry proceedings that led to his most recent probation went forward without his expert witness present to testify in his favor. Necessary paperwork was sent to the witness, who he declined to identify, during the October wildfires and when the witness was in surgery, he said.

An extension to get the witness to the hearings was not granted, he said. He believes that’s a violation of due process and said Goldman has filed a lawsuit against the state seeking a reversal of the decision or a retrial, he said.

A board spokeswoman declined to comment on the issue.

Falling out of step

Before she was knocked out of the competitive circuit, Stompe was among the top of her categories in 31 out of 48 races in which she participated from 2012 to 2014. She’d run her entire life, and injured her ankle while competing in a race in Maine in 2014, she said.

After undergoing physical therapy and suffering from chronic pain, Stompe’s orthopedist told her to see a podiatrist about a tear in her tendon. She chose Redko, who studied at Temple University in Philadelphia, and did his residency training in New York City, according to his biography on Sonoma Valley Hospital’s website.

After what Stompe described as a 10-minute consultation Dec. 9, 2014, when Redko did not order x-rays or an ultrasound or request medical records, the doctor suggested surgery, Stompe said. He didn’t have Stompe sign a consent form at his office or order lab tests before the Dec. 16 procedure at Petaluma Valley Hospital, according to the accusation presented to the Board of Podiatric Medicine.

After her surgery, Stompe continued to see Redko for complaints of severe pain through May, when her last appointment was canceled by Redko’s office, she said. Redko allegedly advised against a follow-up MRI, but another doctor ordered a follow-up MRI and surgery, which revealed scarring, improper stitches and a tendon that had been sewn to a sheath, she said.

A third surgery by a third doctor was performed in January 2016, where a tendon from her hamstring was harvested to replace her injured ankle tendon.

“The whole thing was a little odd,” she said. “As I look back on it now, there were so many red flags.”

Redko said there’s “no truth” to Stompe’s account and “no one told her that she would run within six months of treatment.”

“There was no different surgery performed,” he said. “If we did something wrong, how come the next doctor did practically the same procedure?”

Stompe said she was made to fill out a positive Yelp review for Redko as staff stood by upon her first visit, and five other negative reviews have been removed. Redko denied the allegations about the reviews and said Yelp controls review removal.

Stompe also signed an arbitration agreement on her first visit, a legal document that would later preclude her from seeking further legal action because of the potential of incurring tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees if she lost the case, she said. Redko said his office has made patients sign arbitration agreements for more than a decade, adding that it’s common practice in the medical field.

Amputation

Eight years before Redko operated on Stompe, he performed a scheduled bunion removal on a 15-year-old’s foot, according to an accusation from the Board of Podiatric Medicine proceedings. The unidentified female patient complained of tingling after the surgery, and over the course of the 24 days she went to follow up appointments with Redko as the toe grew worse, the complaint states.

A vascular surgeon later diagnosed the girl with gangrene in her big toe on her left foot. Her toe was later amputated.

Nancy Bandittini, the mother of the teen whose toe was amputated, could not comment because she said she was made to sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of a settlement.

Redko said there was no way to know what the issue was with the toe.

“There was nothing anyone found that we did wrong,” he said. “No one could determine what the reason was for the complication post-operatively.”

After an investigation into that complaint, an administrative law judge ordered Redko be placed on a 35 month probation in 2011.

Redko filed a petition for early termination and was let off probation nine months early. The board received letters of recommendation from podiatrist Robert LaVigna, who said probation had “humbled” Redko, and Rochelle Bomar, now an associate at his practice.

‘Left out in the cold’

In 2009, Rohnert Park’s Mariane Van Durden said Redko performed a surgery to remove bunions and callous. After the procedure, she was in a boot for a month longer than she was told would be necessary and suffered from pain in her toe. 
She saw a second Petaluma podiatrist six months after the procedure, who told her that nerves were cut on the two toes, limiting her ability to walk and eventually leading her to get a handicapped placard.

“The truth is, I’m depressed about it,” the 68-year-old said. “It’s permanent and no doctors want to touch it. I feel abandoned and left out in the cold.”

She contacted the medical board and a lawyer, but did not purse action in either channel, she said.

A staff member from a separate North Bay podiatrist who declined to be identified for fear of retribution, said the facility has seen as many as 10 surgical patients in the last five to six years who had surgeries bungled by Redko.

“They’re all typically surgeries where the patients didn’t have a good result,” the staff member said. “Sometimes the doctors felt they had been over treated … you can have a bad result, it happens and not everyone is perfect. It’s not common, but you can have a bad result, post-operative complications requiring further care, but for it to always come out of the same office doesn’t seem common.”

Redko has privileges at Sonoma Valley Hospital, Petaluma Valley Hospital and Sebastopol’s Palm Drive hospital, according to his biography on the Sonoma hospital’s website.

Sonoma Valley Hospital’s Manager of Marketing and Community Outreach, Celia Kruse de la Rosa, declined to comment. Vanessa deGier, who is the regional director of communications and marketing for St. Joseph Health, was not aware of the decision to place Redko on probation again.

Alleged false advertising

Joseph Soldis, a retired law enforcement officer who operates California Judicial Investigations, a Northern California investigative firm, plans to submit a new complaint to the Board of Podiatric Medicine.

He became aware of a Groupon offering discounted toe fungus removal services from Redko’s office. The deal listed the service for 75 to 78 percent off the “normal” price of $900 for one foot and $1,200 for two feet, according to a screen shot of the ad.

An inquiry to Redko’s staff revealed that the listed discount prices – $199 for one foot and $299 for two feet – were actually the current and normal charges, Soldis said. It usually takes multiple treatments to eradicate such fungus, which was not noted in the Groupon, Soldis said.

Emails and a cease and desist letter to Redko were not acknowledged, he said.

He plans to file a complaint to the board that includes the false advertising issue, and another separate malpractice issue for Christina Yang, who filed a separate small claims lawsuit this February against Redko. He plans to send a complaint to the California Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud Unit and the Sonoma County District Attorneys Consumer Fraud Unit. He is seeking others who have experienced issues with Redko.

Redko initially said he was unaware of any communications to his office, but later said Soldis was “a disturbed individual with criminal intent.” The Groupon is still available for purchase.

The total number of complaints about Redko received by the Board of Podiatric Medicine was not available, spokeswoman Michelle Cave said.

His most recent probation comes with 23 stipulations, including monitoring and rigorous educational requirements, such as clinical training and records keeping courses. His license was technically revoked, but that revocation was stayed as long as he meets the terms of the probation, according to the filings.