Dr. Pervaiz A. Chaudhry was once hailed as one of the premier cardiac surgeons in the Fresno region. But he’s better known for one of the largest malpractice judgments in Fresno County history.
Now, contradictions collide again as Chaudhry considers reapplying for hospital privileges here at the same time the state of California moves to suspend or revoke his medical license.
The Medical Board of California filed its accusations against Chaudhry in April asserting two alleged violations of standards of care for two patients in 2016 and 2017, one of whom died five days after heart surgery.
In March 2018, Chaudhry was hit with one of the largest jury verdicts for malpractice in Fresno County history, when a jury awarded a patient and his family about $68 million in actual and punitive damages. That huge verdict, however, was vacated by the court in August 2018 as part of a settlement between the sides to pave the way for several other lawsuits to be settled without going to trial.
That lawsuit stemmed from an April 2012 surgery in which Chaudhry left the operating room at Community Regional Medical Center before the surgery was completed. That patient, 70-year-old farm and packinghouse worker Silvino Perez of Sanger, lost so much blood after the surgery that his brain was starved of oxygen, causing him to go into a coma.
The Perez case is not associated with the medical board’s current proceedings.
For the past several years, Chaudhry, 61, has been practicing medicine in his native Pakistan, returning to the United States once or twice a year for visits to his family. He has not had medical or surgical privileges at Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno or any of its associated medical centers since May 2018, nor does he have privileges at Saint Agnes Medical Center in northeast Fresno.
But, he told The Bee this week, he is considering the possibility of reapplying for hospital privileges in Fresno. Chaudhry’s California medical license is valid through the end of 2023.
According to the Medical Board of California, Chaudhry’s record includes four settlements of malpractice lawsuits since April 2018 of more than $30,000 – the threshold at which doctors and surgeons are required to report them to the state board. The agency can evaluate and investigate those instances, said Carlos Villatoro, a medical board spokesperson. If the board determines that the doctor or surgeon has violated the law or standards of care, it can file an accusation asking for discipline to be imposed.
‘Departure from the standard of care’
In its April 2022 filing, the state Attorney General’s office acting on behalf of the medical board alleges that in July 2016, Chaudhry performed a coronary bypass surgery on an 81-year-old man, referred to as Patient A, after which the man experienced abnormal blood pressure and moderate bleeding. The patient later had an abnormal heart rhythm and continued to lose blood through a chest tube. Later that day, the patient suffered a cardiac arrest as he was being taken back to the operating room, and never recovered cardiac function. He died five days later.
In that case, the medical board asserted that Chaudhry “failed to maintain adequate and accurate medical records” because he “failed to document significant factors that contribute to the risk involved in the surgery … which is a simple departure from the standard of care.”
“It is the standard of care for all available options to be exhausted in order for a patient to maintain hemodynamic (blood pressure) stability prior to leaving the operating room,” the accusation states. Not using a balloon pump to try to stabilize the patient was a departure from the standard of care that warrants disciplinary action.
But the document also notes that placing a balloon pump “likely would not have reversed Patient A’s outcome.”
In the second case from April 2017, Patient B, a 61-year-old man, went through a cardiac catheter procedure at another hospital before being transferred to Fresno to be seen by Chaudhry the next day. Four days later, the medical board said, Chaudhry conducted a physical exam and full medical history on the patient, but in his records did not mention results of the cardiac catheter procedure or results of other heart exams.
The following day, Chaudhry reportedly performed a coronary artery bypass surgery on the patient and used a balloon pump, but the medical board said Chaudhry’s surgery notes did not provide a reason for using the balloon pump or describe its placement. The lack of documentation for the procedure “was a simple departure from the standard of care,” the medical board’s accusation states.
Between the two patients, Chaudhry “committed repeated negligent acts relating to his provision of services…” the board asserts.
An initial version of the accusation was filed by the medical board in September 2021. The amended version filed in April came after a scheduled date for a pre-hearing and settlement conference on the original accusation, said Villatoro, the medical board spokesperson.
Seeking restored privileges?
In an interview with The Bee this week, Chaudhry said he believes the medical board’s investigation was triggered by a complex maze of political repercussions associated with his time at Community Regional Medical Center.
“All other cases including the Perez case have been investigated thoroughly by the medical board and … I was cleared, not even a reprimand,” he said in a separate email exchange. “With the grace of God Almighty, my license is clean. Never been suspended or revoked.”
Chaudhry said that because he returns to the Fresno area for several weeks or months at a time between stints in Pakistan, he is considering seeking restoration of his hospital privileges in Fresno, but has taken no firm steps to do so. He said he has spoken with other cardiologists who have encouraged him to reapply.
‘While I am here, why not operate?” Chaudhy said in the interview with The Bee. “I want to come to Fresno because I want to help Fresno.” But, he added, he believes some other cardiovascular surgeons in the area would actively oppose him getting privileges restored.
Chaudhry earned his medical degree from Wayne State University in Detroit in 1995. His California medical license was issued in 2002 and is due to expire at the end of 2023.
Chaudhry returned to his native Pakistan in 2017 to take a position as head of the cardiovascular surgery department at the National Institute for Cardiovacsular Disease (NICVD) in Karachi. Chaudhry performed Pakistan’s first successful transplant of a mechanical heart device in a patient, a 62-year-old woman, in mid-2018, according to the newspaper The Nation.
After his NICVD contract ended in 2020, he became dean of the AWBA Knowledge Village and head of the ABWA Heart Centre in Faisalabad, Pakistan. That organization suffered financial difficulties, Chaudhry said, and he moved on to help re-establish a cardiac surgery program at United Christian Hospital in Lahore, Pakistan.
“My utmost try at this juncture is to revive that hospital, as it is very beneficial to the community as a whole but especially to (Pakistan’s) Christian minority,” Chaudhry said, adding that charity funds from American church denominations to support the hospital dried up as a result of financial restrictions put in place on transfers of money to Islamic countries after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
He said one of the reasons for his latest visit to the U.S., in addition to visiting his elderly mother and family, “is to rekindle the relationship between the churches and UHC.”
The Times of Oman reported last month that Chaudhry was among the guests at a celebration in Oman of Pakistan’s 75th anniversary of independence from Great Britain.