‘Fake’ medic led heart unit

The director of Athens’s Ippocrateio hospital’s heart surgery unit is to face a prosecutor after a report by health inspectors claimed that he had been operating for years with forged professional qualifications and despite a high rate of patient mortality. The alleged fraudster received his post after submitting two fake certificates of surgical competence, one bearing the forged signature of world-famous Egypt-born surgeon Magdi Yacoub, the report said. Contacted by Greek reporters yesterday, Yacoub confirmed that he had not signed the document. The suspect’s lawyer, Yiannis Katsieris, said someone in the surgeon’s office in the UK had signed the diploma. According to the report, commissioned by the Health Ministry six months ago, 25 percent of patients operated upon by the suspect in the year 2000 died, as did 24 percent of his patients in 2001 and 17 percent in 2002. According to reports on private television, the suspect has been operating for more than 20 years without the necessary diplomas. It is unclear how many of these years he had been in charge of the heart surgery unit at the Ippocrateio. Relatives of some of the patients who died after undergoing surgery under the suspect’s supervision had pressed charges in the past but the alleged fraudster reportedly was acquitted each time. The problem of unqualified doctors operating in Greek hospitals is not widespread but is fueled by an illegal trade in fake diplomas, representatives of doctors’ associations told TV channels. The lack of any systematic inspection of certificates by local and central government makes it hard to trace offenders, they added. The Health Ministry’s inspector general, Michalis Sambatakakis, said that the case of the suspect doctor would only be clarified after further investigation, noting that he is known as a «good scientist.» The doctor was suspended from his post at the Ippocrateio last Friday when his superiors were informed about the report.