DALLAS — An anesthesiologist accused of tampering with IV bags at a North Dallas surgery center had previously been written up more than 30 times for issues at another clinic, but was able to keep his job, according to the testimony Friday at a federal detention hearing.
The nature or seriousness of the “incident reports” against Dr. Raynaldo Ortiz weren’t detailed Friday, but Jeremy Johnston, the former director of surgery at Dallas Regional Medical Center in Mesquite, said that number of work-related complaints was high for a single doctor to receive in a three-year period.
A lawyer for Ortiz questioned the seriousness of the complaints, noting that her client was able to keep his job despite them.
“He’s friends with the CEO, so they did nothing,” Johnston testified.
“We are unable to provide any further information due to the ongoing criminal investigation against Raynaldo Ortiz, Jr.,” said Vince Falsarella, Dallas Regional Medical Center spokesman. “The health and safety of our patients is always our highest priority. Our facility has received the Healthgrades Patient Safety Excellence Award for the past three years, placing us among the top 5 percent of all short-term acute care hospitals in the country, as evaluated by Healthgrades.”
Ortiz faces up to life in prison if convicted of federal charges poisoning IV bags with various pharmaceutical drugs last summer at Baylor Scott & White Surgicare North Dallas.
Prosecutors said a fellow anesthesiologist died at home after receiving one of the tainted bags, and 11 other patients at Surgicare North Dallas had severe cardiac events after receiving fluids from other bags.
Ortiz has pleaded not guilty. In a phone interview with WFAA from jail last month, Ortiz said he has done nothing wrong.
“All that stuff that they said was a lie,” Ortiz told WFAA.
Prosecutors said that the poisonings began after Ortiz became upset that North Dallas Surgicare administrators had launched an investigation in May over him allegedly failing to act when a patient stopped breathing during surgery. At the time, he was under investigation for another similar incident at Baylor’s North Garland surgery center, for which he was later disciplined by the Texas Medical Board.
Friday’s hearing was to determine whether Dr. Ortiz should remain in jail pending trial. An earlier similar hearing found that Ortiz was a flight risk and should remain in jail.
Prosecutors played a new video in court Friday, purporting to show Ortiz removing drugs from an anesthesia supply cabinet. Investigators also have other videos of Ortiz allegedly placing IV bags in “warmers” outside surgical suites just before bags used in those surgeries supposedly caused critical cardiac events.
Johnston, who testified under court order Friday, said he personally felt afraid of Ortiz after the doctor screamed at him and chest-bumped him during a dispute at work at Dallas Regional Medical Center in Mesquite.
“He’s retaliatory. He’s aggressive,” said Johnston, who now works at Baylor Scott & White’s North Garland surgery center, where Ortiz also used to work. “My entire facility’s scared to death. They have said he might come shoot us. I’m scared for my wife and my kids.”
Special Agent Daniel Allgeyer with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the lead agency investigating Ortiz, testified that several witnesses have said they are also afraid Ortiz will harm them if he’s allowed to go free.
He said one is a nurse at the North Garland surgery center. He said she told investigators that on Dec. 23, 2020, Ortiz berated and yelled at her after she called for emergency help when a patient stopped breathing under Ortiz’s care.
Allgeyer also testified that Ortiz potentially had access to millions of dollars from his medical practice that he might use to flee the country if he is set free.
Ortiz’s attorney John Nicholson argued that Ortiz is not dangerous, has a young son, has no felony convictions on his record and has every incentive to comply with any restrictions the judge would put on him.
“Respectfully, I disagree with the defense,” said Chief U.S. District Court Judge David Godbey, who ordered Ortiz held pending trial.
“The defendant is a danger to the community, his co-workers and potential witnesses,” the judge said.
Ortiz is expected to go on trial some time next year.