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Embattled surgeon sought N.D. license

A surgeon who gave up his Massachusetts medical license and is under investigation in a string of deaths at an Illinois Veterans Affairs hospital has applied for a medical license in North Dakota, that state's medical regulators confirmed yesterday.

Dr. Jose Veizaga-Mendez, 69, applied Aug. 1 for a license from the North Dakota State Board of Medical Examiners, said Duane Houdek, the board's executive secretary. The board has taken no action because the Bolivian-trained doctor's application was incomplete, Houdek said.

Veizaga-Mendez filed for the new license less than two weeks before he resigned from the VA hospital in Marion, Ill., in August. His departure from the VA came three days after a Kentucky man apparently bled to death after undergoing gallstone-removal surgery performed by Veizaga-Mendez.

Word that Veizaga-Mendez sought licensing in North Dakota was revealed in a letter yesterday from Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Barack Obama to Illinois' top medical regulator. The lawmakers are pressing for answers about Veizaga-Mendez's background and how he came to be hired by the Marion VA, about 120 miles from St. Louis.

Nine veterans - all in some way linked to Veizaga-Mendez - died in a six-month period ending in March, during which the hospital would have expected only two deaths, Durbin has said.

Even before he was hired at the VA, Veizaga-Mendez had made payouts in two malpractice suits in Massachusetts and was under investigation there on suspicion of botching seven cases, two of which ended in deaths.

The Marion hospital suspended all surgeries after Veizaga-Mendez's resignation. The deaths there involving Veizaga-Mendez are under investigation.

Veizaga-Mendez, who surrendered his Massachusetts license in July 2006, has no listed telephone number in Illinois and Massachusetts and has been unreachable for comment.

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