N.C. Newspaper Seeks to Keep Doctor’s Malpractice Cases Open

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(AP) The Star-News of Wilmington filed motions Monday to keep information public about malpractice cases involving Dr. Steven E. Olchowski.

The newspaper’s motions, filed in New Hanover County Superior Court, oppose an earlier move by New Hanover Regional Medical Center to keep parts of the Olchowski case under wraps.

Allen Parsons, executive editor and associate publisher of the Star-News, said the community has a stake in knowing the whole story.

“That won’t happen under the protective order the hospital seeks,” Parsons said. “There’s been too much secrecy already. The Star-News believes the public is better off if our courts are kept open, the way they’re meant to be, and the people involved in this matter are allowed to freely speak their minds.”

The hospital’s attorney filed its motion two weeks ago, asking Superior Court Judge B. Craig Ellis to take steps to prevent publication of information that would adversely impact the ability of the hospital and other defendants in the cases to receive a fair trial.

It also seeks to seal information that won’t be admissible in trial.

The hospital’s motion was prepared a day after a Star-News special report outlined Dr. Olchowski’s troubled past, what the hospital knew, and when. It provided details of the doctor’s repeated alcohol dependency relapses and psychological problems for which records show he was brought before New Hanover Regional’s Medical Executive Committee 14 times.

There are nine medical malpractice cases pending against Dr. Olchowski, most claiming he promised one type of stomach stapling surgery but provided an inferior procedure that has caused them serious medical complications.

Bonnie Refinski-Knight, the hospital’s attorney, said the motion was not meant to restrict the newspapers access but to try to preserve fairness to all parties involved.

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