Another patient death blamed on infamous St. Pete weight-loss surgeon

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Longtime St. Petersburg weight-loss surgeon, Ernest C. Rehnke, is being accused of another patient’s death.

In January of 2014, Rehnke performed gastric stapling weight-loss surgery on Pamela Jane Quiles, a 39-year-old medical assistant and mother of three living in New Port Richey.

Six months later Quiles died.

Now, in a lawsuit, Quiles’ daughter, Kayla Jane Pellrine, says Rehnke should never have performed the surgery in the first place. Pellrine argues that Quiles was a high-risk patient, as her previous surgeries — which include gallbladder and appendix removals, hernia repairs, abdominal surgery, and a hysterectomy — had left Quiles’ surrounding tissue and vascularity “compromised,” rendering the gastric stapling “contraindicated,” or unwarranted.

Rehnke, a 63-year-old board-certified surgeon in St. Petersburg who, among other things, performs bariatric weight-loss surgeries at Palms of Pasadena Hospital, has a well-documented history of malpractice claims and lawsuits.

CBS News reported in 2014 that Rehnke had 11 malpractice payouts since 2000, “tying him for the most of any practicing physician in Florida.” Florida’s Board of Medicine, which is in charge of preventing dangerous doctors from practicing, has yet to restrict his license, though.

The lone disciplinary action taken against Rehnke came in 2008 when he was fined $5,000 after a 76-year-old heart patient suffered an above-the-knee amputation, and then later died.

But the accusations haven’t stopped mounting.

Back in 2010, Rehnke and members of the nursing staff at Palms of Pasadena were accused of causing the death of a 42-year-old Chicago doctor after allegedly botching the patient’s appendectomy and subsequent follow-up.

And in 2015, a former real estate agent claimed that after Rehnke had performed lap-band surgery on her, infections formed that eventually required her to get a colostomy. The situation allegedly led to more than $300,000 in post-surgical medical expenses for the patient, who also accused Palms of Pasadena of negligence for retaining a surgeon with so many malpractice settlements.

According to his website, Rehnke grew up in St. Petersburg and attended medical school at St. George University School of Medicine, in Grenada, West Indies.

Devon Crumpacker is a Tampa Bay based writer and reporter for Extensive Enterprises Media. He primarily covers Pinellas County politics for, but also makes time to write the occasional bar review for He lives in St. Petersburg with his fiance, Sydney. To contact, e-mail, or visit his Twitter page @DevonCrumpacker.