Iowa obstetrician who abandoned patient ordered to pay $2,500

The Iowa Board of Medicine has ordered a Cedar Rapids obstetrician to pay a $2,500 fine for abandoning a patient he left under anesthesia. (Photo via Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners)

The Iowa Board of Medicine has ordered a Cedar Rapids obstetrician to pay a $2,500 fine for abandoning a patient he left under anesthesia.

According to the board, Dr. Jason A. Rexroth, a 49-year-old physician who practices obstetrics and gynecology in Cedar Rapids, engaged in professional incompetency on April 30, 2019. On that date, Rexroth allegedly prepared a patient for surgery and placed the patient under anesthesia, then left to treat another patient who was in labor at a different facility.

Rexroth allegedly left the first patient under anesthesia for 23 minutes in the absence of another attending surgeon before he returned to begin the operation. The publicly available board records give no indication what hospital or surgical centers Rexroth was working at on that day, or whether the patient was harmed.

Under the terms of a settlement agreement reached with the board last week, Rexroth was issued a warning and fined $2,500.

According to board records, Rexroth was arrested and jailed in 2009 after an altercation in a hotel bar while attending a professional conference in California. Rexroth allegedly struck another man in the face with a bar glass, opening a large gash in the man’s forehead. The arresting officer indicated Rexroth appeared intoxicated, according to the board.

Board records indicate Rexroth was charged with one count of felony assault with a deadly weapon, one count of felony battery causing serious bodily injury, and one count of misdemeanor battery. He later pleaded no contest to the latter two charges and the charge of assault with a deadly weapon was dismissed.

In 2018, an Iowa woman sued Rexroth, alleging that during an operation he placed a suture too deep in her pelvis, causing injury to her sciatic nerve. In 2019, a jury returned a verdict in favor of Rexroth, finding that he was not negligent in the woman’s care.

In 2019, another Iowa woman sued Rexroth, alleging that he failed to perform a timely Cesarean section in delivering her baby in February 2017, and had caused the infant’s skull to be fractured during the delivery, resulting in serious complications. The case is still pending, with a jury trial scheduled in November.

The Iowa Board of Medicine also took action in these cases:

— The board restored the license of Dr. Richard C. Blunk, a 44-year-old physician who practices pediatric medicine in Davenport. In 2016, Blunk entered into a settlement agreement with the board, which alleged he had “engaged in contact, touching or comments of a sexual nature” with the mother of one of his pediatric patients in 2012, and that two to three years later he engaged in similar conduct with a co-worker who also was the mother of a pediatric patient. As part of the settlement agreement, Blunk completed a comprehensive sexual misconduct evaluation and treatment. Under the terms of the settlement, the board issued Blunk a citation and warning and ordered him to pay a $5,000 civil penalty. It also placed Blunk’s license on probation for a period of five years subject to board monitoring. Last week, the board determined Blunk had successfully completed the terms of the agreement, and restored his Iowa medical license to full privileges, free of restrictions.

— The board restored the license of Dr. Derek J. Ellingson, a 42-year-old physician who practices pathology in Iowa City. Last year, Ellingson entered into an agreement with the board through which he was granted an Iowa medical license subject to board monitoring. At the time, the board had received information indicating Ellingson was disciplined by, and later fired by, the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. The information received by the board indicated Ellingson’s privileges at the center had been suspended in July 2019 after a review of his performance revealed issues with patient care, errors in diagnosis, errors in tumor measurement and errors in documentation. Last week, the Iowa board determined Ellingson had successfully completed the terms of the settlement agreement and it restored his Iowa medical license to full privileges, free of restrictions.

— The board restored the license of Dr. Susannah P. Friemel, a 46-year-old physician who practices internal medicine in Davenport. Last summer, Friemel entered into an agreement with the board, which had alleged she prescribed controlled substances to her live-in romantic partner between 2015 and 2017, for a non-acute, non-emergency condition in violation of Iowa law. Under the terms of the agreement, the board issued Friemel a citation and warning, ordered her to pay a $2,500 civil penalty, and ordered her to complete a board-approved professional ethics program. Last week, the board determined Friemel had successfully completed the terms of the agreement and it restored her Iowa medical license to full privileges, without restrictions.

Clark Kauffman
Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.