Most overworked brain surgeons would look forward to some R&R on their Disney family vacation. Not Dr. Paolo Bolognese.
For at least two straight years, the embattled Long Island surgeon gave free consultations to prospective patients in the opulent lobby of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – even though he’s not licensed in Florida.
“At the time I had no idea I was a bumbling fool, happy to be getting a second opinion from him,” said Kristin Keene, of Orlando, who was suffering from headaches and balance problems from a rare brain anomaly called Chiari malformation.
“In retrospect, it’s almost seedy,” the mother of two added, describing how another four people waited in line at night to talk to him on Feb. 3, 2005, as if at a book signing.
Keene said Bolognese, who pulls in some $2.5 million a year, belittled other surgeons, bragged about his expertise and used crude language that shocked her and her husband.
At one point in the nearly hour-long consult, Bolognese compared Keene’s brain anatomy to a former “Baywatch” actress’ breasts.
“You already have a cerebellum slump [which] means that the gravity is calling, and this part of the cerebellum is kind of sagging down,” Bolognese said on the recorded consultation. “It’s like Pamela Anderson at 60. OK? Without the bra.”
Florida health officials say Bolognese – deputy director of North Shore University Hospital’s Chiari Institute – is not licensed in the Sunshine State.
Eulinda Smith, a spokeswoman for the Florida Health Department, said doctors who are not licensed there cannot review “medical tests and or histories of persons for the purpose of making a diagnosis and offering suggestions as [to] a treatment plan.”
This is not the first time Bolognese has been in hot water.
Bolognese was suspended – then reinstated – by North Shore in April, when he failed to show up and operate on his patient Jennifer Ronca, who was already on an operating table under anesthesia. He is also being sued – along with former chief of neurosurgery Thomas Milhorat – for allegedly doing unnecessary surgeries on adults and young children for financial gain. New York State health officials are investigating.
North Shore Hospital officials said they had no knowledge of Bolognese seeing prospective patients outside of New York State, where he is licensed, although not board-certified. “The hospital certainly does not sanction any conduct that’s inappropriate or illegal,” said spokesman Terry Lynam. “We are going to investigate this. It’s disconcerting.”