Cincinnati clinic of Laser Spine Institute closes, with the rest of the chain

The local clinic of the national chain Laser Spine Institute has closed with the rest of the company’s facilities.

Calls Monday to the Walnut Hills facility, which opened in 2015, were not answered. The company’s Friday announcement of the abrupt closure said about 600 employees were affected nationwide. The website for the local facility listed a staff of 13 doctors, eight surgeons and four anesthesiologists.

The 14-year-old chain, based in Tampa, Florida, has been dealing with financial pressures. In recent years, the chain closed three facilities to save money but left open locations in Cincinnati, Tampa, St. Louis and Scottsdale, Arizona. Those four closed Friday. The Cincinnati surgery center of Laser Spine Institute opened in 2015. The facility had 36,000 square feet, three operating rooms and a cafe that served breakfast and lunch. The office closed Friday, with the last of Laser Spine Institute’s offices. (Photo: Provided/Laser Spine Institute) The closure had local patients scrambling for care. The Mayfield Brain & Spine practice in Cincinnati got calls from more than 100 patients since the closure, said neurosurgeon Robert Bohinski, director of Mayfield’s Spine Center of Excellence.

“ You’re trying to get to the patients who need it to the most first,” he said. “We’re definitely going to make a strong effort to prioritize everyone’s needs and get them where they need to be.”

Laser Spine Institute wasn’t “offering anything privileged. It wasn’t a secret-recipe sort of medicine," Bohinski said.

Spine doctors should offer a spectrum of care, Bohinski said, which could include surgery but also could mean a steroid shot or a recommendation for physical therapy or chiropractic treatment. “In a lot of cases with a spine disorder, you’re monitoring the patient for a long time. They may go from one spine problem to another as their spine ages."

When Laser Spine Institute unveiled its 36,000-square-foot Cincinnati facility, it unveiled an office building renovated to have three operating rooms, 10 clinic exam rooms, a diagnostic imaging suite, a café offering complimentary breakfast and lunch, flat-screen televisions and free wireless internet for patients and families.

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In a statement Friday, Laser Spine Institute said that despite cost savings in recent months, it could not get necessary financing. Jake Brace, the chain’s chief executive officer brought in last year to help restructure the company, said in a statement, "My heart goes out to our great, dedicated staff who have stuck with us through all of our adversity and worked so tirelessly to help us right the ship."

The Laser Spine Institute advertised “minimally invasive” procedures for neck and back pain from spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, pinched nerves, bone spurs, herniated discs, sciatica and other chronic conditions.

Though claiming a 98 percent patient-satisfaction rate, the company was hit with malpractice lawsuits. Professional wrestler Hulk Hogan sued, charging the treatments were ineffective and cost him $50 million in lost revenue. Hogan reportedly settled out of court for $10 million.

In 2017, a Beecher, Illinois, woman sued the Cincinnati surgery center in Hamilton County Common Pleas court claiming procedures done there left her disabled, in constant pain and broke.

Last year, the family of a Pennsylvania woman who died hours after being discharged from a Laser Spine Institute center was awarded $20 million in a wrongful-death case.

The Better Business Bureau lists at least 42 complaints against Laser Spine Institute.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that a competing surgery center also sued Laser Spine Institute for offering incentives to patients, such as paying expenses, which are prohibited under Medicare guidelines.

If you are a Greater Cincinnati patient of Laser Spine Institute and you are willing to speak with a reporter, please contact Anne Saker, asaker@enquirer.com

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