Authorities arrest North Dallas doctor accused of tampering with IV bags

Dr. Raynaldo Rivera Ortiz Jr. faces federal charges in the death of a fellow Baylor Scott & White Surgicare North Dallas doctor

DALLAS — Dallas police on Wednesday arrested a 59-year-old Richardson anesthesiologist on a federal warrant on suspicion of contaminating IV bags at a North Dallas surgical center, resulting in the death of a fellow Dallas physician and injuries to several other patients.

Dr. Raynaldo Rivera Ortiz Jr. is accused of tampering with an IV at Baylor Scott & White Surgicare North Dallas, located 12230 Coit Road.

So far, at least five patients have experienced severe, life-threatening medical emergencies while undergoing routine surgical procedures at Surgicare between May and August, according to local attorneys representing patients and their families.

On June 21, Dr. Melanie Kaspar, 55, an anesthesiologist who had also worked at Surgicare, took a saline bag from the facility to her Lakewood home to treat herself for dehydration. When she gave herself the IV, she “almost immediately had a serious cardiac event and died,” according to an order temporarily suspending the medical license of Ortiz issued Friday by the Texas Medical Board.

Ortiz is expected to make his initial appearance, and possibly enter a plea to the charges, in front of a federal magistrate judge Friday. At that hearing, prosecutors could ask the judge to hold Ortiz pending trial. It’s unclear if he has an attorney.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration agents are investigating the case.

On Friday, Sept. 9, the Texas Medical Board temporarily suspended Ortiz’s medical license calling him “a continuing threat to public welfare.”

In their order of temporary suspension, the medical board said Ortiz was seen on surveillance footage in the Surgicare facility “depositing IV bags into the warmer in the hall outside the operating rooms. When he deposited an IV bag into the warmer, shortly thereafter a patient would suffer a serious complication.”

In August, the Dallas County Medical Examiner ruled Kaspar died from an overdose of bupivacaine. Bupivacaine is an anesthetic used to numb areas of the body and provide pain relief during surgical, medical and dental procedures.  

Her death had initially been ruled accidental, but the ME has since reopened the case for more investigation.

“She was beloved by her patients, peers, and everyone she worked with,” Melanie Kaspar’s husband John Kaspar said in a statement to WFAA. “To watch her die in such a tragic manner is something I will have to live with forever. She was a beautiful woman.”

Bupivacaine is the same substance that testing showed was present in the IV bags from the Surgicare warmer, the medical board order states. The bags “displayed visible tiny holes in the plastic wrap around the bags,” the order states.

Tests were run on the remaining contents from an IV bag that was given to another otherwise healthy patient who had a serious cardiac event during a routine surgery, the board order states. 

“The tests indicated that the IV fluid contained similar drugs that should not have been in the IV bag,” the order said. “Such drugs could and would be fatal when administered unknowingly and intravenously.”

The Texas Medical Board said it only found out about the death of a patient from possible IV bag contamination from media reports on Sept. 2. The board said its staff received information from federal authorities on Sept. 8 about the investigation, and set an emergency suspension hearing for Dr. Ortiz for the next day, Sept. 9.

A Texas Medical Board spokesperson did not respond to questions about when Baylor first informed the board about concerns over the rash of patients having negative reactions during surgeries.

Baylor Scott & White said the following in a statement issued on Wednesday: 

“On August 24, immediately upon determining an IV bag had potentially been compromised, Surgicare North Dallas paused all operations and notified the appropriate local and federal authorities. It elected to close the same day, and it remains closed as we focus on assisting investigators. There is nothing more important than the safety and well-being of our patients. We have created a dedicated phone line for patients with questions: 214-818-2794. Dr. Raynaldo Ortiz was no longer a member of the medical staff of Surgicare North Dallas at the time the Texas Medical Board suspended his license.”

Attorney Bruce Steckler said he represents five clients who had procedures at Surgicare:

An 18-year-old woman who had her gallbladder removedA 39-year-old man who underwent a reverse vasectomyA 21-year-old woman who had breast reduction surgeryAn 18-year-old man who had nose surgery after a dirt bike accident

“My clients and their families are completely freaked out,” Steckler previously told WFAA. “You go in for a routine procedure at a surgery center… and in the midst of the surgery, the client goes into respiratory distress, is immediately having to be intubated and rushed to an ICU. The clients — all young and in good health — are stunned to find themselves on a vent in an ICU after undergoing an elective procedure.”

Steckler’s fifth client, a man in his 50s, suffered a cardiac episode during surgery, Steckler said. The surgery was then halted, and while the client did not end up in the hospital, it took him all day to recover. He was told at that time that he had an underlying heart condition, “but when he went to follow up, they could not figure out” why the episode occurred, Steckler said.

Ortiz has at least twice been disciplined by the Texas Medical Board — once in 2018 and again as recently as last month.

On Aug. 19, 2022, the medical board reprimanded Ortiz for not performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on one of his anesthesia patients who needed it at the North Garland Surgery Center in November 2020, board documents state. The surgery center’s Medical Executive Committee issued an “adverse recommendation,” and Ortiz relinquished his medical staff membership and all clinical privileges. The state medical board ordered his practice be monitored by an outside physician and fined him $3,000, documents state.

In 2018, the board disciplined Ortiz for not reporting a conviction of misdemeanor animal cruelty. In 2016, he was convicted in Collin County of using a pellet gun to shoot and injure the dog of a neighbor in retaliation for her helping his partner escape domestic violence, board documents state. In that case, the board fined him $2,000 and gave him a public reprimand. The discipline was lifted in 2020 “due to the completion of all requirements,” medical board documents state.

In 1995, according to medical board documents, Ortiz was arrested for misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury to a spouse. 

In 2005, another female partner filed for an emergency protective order against Ortiz, board documents state.

If you have been affected by the situation at Baylor Scott & White Surgicare North Dallas, please reach out to the WFAA Investigative team here.

  

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