Gulf Pines Owner

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A cutting edge spine surgery center pulled Gulf Pines Hospital out of financial hard times but information has surfaced about the new owner, Alfred Bonati.

Bonati is being monitored by the state medical board as part of the settlement from a 10-year investigation. However, the surgeon is standing by his work.

Gulf Pines Owner Dr. Alfred Bonati uses his own patented tools to perform a minimally invasive spine surgery. Although it's earned him praise from thousands of patients his experimental techniques have caused repeated confrontations with the Florida Medical Board.

Those with the hospital say the procedure is quickly becoming the standard, but not without some road blocks along the way. In December 2002 Bonati reached a settlement with the Florida Medical Board on claims of wrongdoing involving dozens of patients. The lawsuits claimed Bonati misdiagnosed patients and performed unnecessary surgeries. However, Gulf Pines officials say the state medical board investigation was purely economic.

"It was a witch hunt. You know what they were after. They know once he is the standard of practice open back surgery is finished. I hope we live in a world where five years from now they're still not putting screws and pins in peoples' bodies, and making two-foot long incisions when it's not necessary,” comments Pete O’Shea of Gulf Pines Hospital.

In the end the cases were dropped but Bonati's files are periodically reviewed. O'Shea says Bonati does not fault the state medical board for their initial reaction. In fact, he says Bonati expected it.

"When you innovate in medicine you're automatically deemed controversial. Same thing with Dr. Debecki when he came up with open heart surgery same thing with the people with lasik."

Since the settlement, Bonati has had no problems. The surgeon overseeing Bonati says he's impressed with the procedure.

O'sSea tells us in the past to fix a spine problem doctors would have to open patients up totally meaning an incision all down the front and down the back. Then they would insert metal to sturdy the problem and sometimes even take bone from other areas to keep the spine aligned. Dr. Bonati's method is done with a small camera and leaves only a quarter-sized scar on the back.

Bonati's cases remain under supervision until the end of this year. The Florida Medical Board retains the right to yank Bonati's license if he gets into trouble again.