Brooklyn Cancer Treatment Program To Be Shut Down

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The New York Sun

The director of a specialized cancer treatment program at SUNY Downstate said that many cancer patients will be denied treatment as a result of an accreditation board’s decision to shut down his program.

“I don’t mind telling you under oath that patients will die faster as a result of this,” the director of gynecologic oncology at Downstate, Ovadia Abulafia, told The New York Sun in an interview yesterday.

The gynecologic oncology program at the university’s hospital in Brooklyn was stripped of its accreditation in March 2006. Over the years, the program has treated thousands of women for cervical, ovarian, and uterine cancer, Dr. Abulafia, who is also the chairman of the Ob/Gyn program there, said.

The lapse in accreditation may also prove to be a political barb for Governor Pataki, who has boasted that the state university system has improved under his leadership.

SUNY’s Health Science Center in Brooklyn filed a lawsuit last month in federal court against the accrediting body, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, claiming that the hospital was denied due process and has not been given a fair chance to appeal the Board’s decision. The legal complaint asks a federal judge to allow the program to maintain its accreditation until the Board, which is based in Dallas, hears an appeal.

The program was first notified that it did not meet the Board’s standards in 2003, according to letters filed with the court. At that time it was placed on probation because it failed to offer young doctors enough chemotherapy training or surgical experience, among other things, an attorney for the Board, William North, wrote in a letter recently filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.

The Board’s unanimous decision to withdraw accreditation was made by a group of six doctors from all over the country, according to a letter by Mr. North.

In court papers, lawyers for the university express dismay at the Board’s decision, and claim that graduating doctors from the gynecologic oncology program pass the Board’s certification exam 100% of the time.

The fellowship program consists of three faculty members, three young doctors, and three scientists, Dr. Abulafia said. For many Brooklyn women it is the only place to turn to for care, he said, adding that some of the patients are too poor or are otherwise unable to travel to hospitals in Manhattan.

There are four other such programs in the city, although none of the others are in Brooklyn.

“This is a program that treats patients in the entire borough of Brooklyn, Dr Abulafia said. “We take care of every patient who comes here. Even patients without insurance. Even patients with HIV who have gynecologic malignancies who are so poor nobody else will take care of them.”

Dr. Abulafia said he did not know how many practicing doctors in Brooklyn specialized in gynecologic oncology.

Currently the program is winding down. It is no longer allowed to recruit new fellows, according to the legal complaint the university filed. Dr. Abulafia predicts that faculty members will soon leave for other hospitals with accredited fellowship programs.

The New York Sun

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