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Family of patients question care.

Two Green Country families are raising questions about a Hillcrest heart surgeon after their loved ones died under his care.

The chief of that surgeon's section is also voicing his concerns.

The News On Six's Lori Fullbright talked to one of the families involved.

Larry and Christine Crider had been married eight years and were raising a 15-year old daughter. Christine had been diagnosed with a leaky heart valve.

Because she was getting tired doing everyday activities, she decided to have surgery on November 21st. Her family considered it to be elective and fairly routine.

Larry Crider said, "Her feeling was, the sooner she got it repaired, the better off it would be in the long run. She was tired of being tired."

What Larry understood would be a three-day hospital stay, turned into a nightmare.

His wife never recovered and after 11 days died on December 1.

After receiving phone calls telling him Christine died because her surgeon, Dr. Arshad Yousuf, made mistakes, he wanted answers.

"Extremely hard," Crider said, "I have a 15-year old daughter at home that I have to give answers about why her mother didn't come home."

He contacted Tulsa attorney, Clark Brewster.

Clark Brewster, Attorney, "For us, looking at a healthy woman with a relatively minor problem and elective surgery, it's extraordinary that she walked into the hospital and would then die.'

"Brewster says he's also been contacted by 78 year-old Wilburn Millard's family. He died following Heart by-pass surgery on August 6the. His surgeon was also Doctor Yousuf.

That case was referred to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, a national group that evaluates hospitals.

Doctor George Cohlmia has been a cardio-thoracic surgeon for 18 years and the head of that division at Hillcrest for the past eight.

He wrote a letter to Hillcrest's medical director in December and another to the board of trustees in January, expressing his concerns about the two deaths.

Cohlmia says," If I know of things that transpired that are not above board that lead to patient harm and do nothing, I'm complicit also."

Doctor Yousuf's attorney would not let him answer our questions but did provide us with extensive documentation of Yousuf"s training and credentials, including letters of reference.

His attorney says Dr. Yousuf is "well trained, diligent, conscientious and highly skilled."

He says he can't address questions about specific patients, because it violates confidentiality.

Even after requesting an autopsy, Christine Crider's family still feels like they're in the dark.

Crider said, "Just need to find out the truth. If it shows something correct was not done, we want it corrected so another family doesn't go what we went through."

Hillcrest also refused to answer specific questions, but, sent us a letter saying they know of the concerns and are investigating.

They also said they couldn't talk about the patient issues because of confidentiality.

Doctor Yousuf's attorney says he has asked Clark Brewster if his clients would sign patient confidentiality releases so The doctor can answer specific questions about Christine Crider and Wilburn Millard's surgeries.

Yousuf's attorney also points out that he has performed 39 cardiothoracic surgeries since being granted privileges at Hillcrest and of those two patients have died. He says those deaths - while not acceptable, are in line with national norms for this high-risk specialty.
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