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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Armitage to leave hospital

Dr. John Armitage

The news of the departure of Dr. John Armitage from Mary Washington Hospital brings to mind a story about the heart surgeon that illustrates how many of his patients feel about him.

Armitage has been medical director of the heart program at Mary Washington since 1994. He led the organization through one of its most difficult times, in 2004-2005, when heart patients were being killed by a poison medicine. Six patients died and three were injured when they received bacteria-laden medicine during their heart procedures.

Armitage helped discover what was causing the problem, and, by all accounts, was open and honest with the injured patients and families of those who died. The patients and survivors sued the hospital and the manufacturer of the medicine, Central Admixture Pharmacy Services of Maryland. The hospital had no responsibility for what happened and was quickly dropped from the suits. The manufacturer of the bad medicine eventually paid more than $6 million to settle with the families.

While covering this, I pointed out to the attorney for the families that she had sued the hospital and the manufacturer.

“Why didn’t you name Dr. Armitage?” I asked her.

“My clients won’t let me,” she replied.

The plaintiffs had lost loved ones or been badly injured at Armitage’s hands, yet they bore him no ill will. They knew he was not responsible for what happened, and they respected the way he handled himself both before and after the surgeries.

Armitage will be leaving the hospital June 1. It not clear why, except that his contract expires then and has not been renewed. I have not been able to reach Armitage to ask about it, and the hospital isn’t saying much, except to thank him for his service and wish him well.

Look for a story about Armitage and his departure in tomorrow’s paper.


  • http://blogs Der Arzt

    This is an absolute disaster for heart surgery in Fredericksburg! Whatever the reasons for his leaving, I hope they are his own, & that in no way he is being forced into this move. May success (which I am sure of) & happiness follow him & his family where ever he goes.

  • Brandon Johnson

    I wouldn’t despair just yet. I’ve heard that quite a few doctors who are tired of Medicorp and its practices are moving to the HCA Hospital in Spotsylvania when it opens. Could Dr. Armitage be one of those? I certainly hope so and it won’t surprise me at all if that’s where he goes… If he doesn’t go to the new hospital, I’d go up north to one of the INOVA hospitals.

  • Carolyn Johnson

    From everything I’ve heard, he has an excellent reputation. It will be a shame to see him go. Fredericksburg has a shortage of competent doctors, so this is just one more to leave. Sad, very sad.

  • Jed Douglas

    I was best friends with John Armitage’s son Justin. His father saved my fathers life in 97′ He is one of the most proffessional and outstanding heart and general doctors that marywashington has ever had. I miss Justin alot, I thank you John for saving my father….

  • Shawna

    In 2002 Dr. Armitage performed heart surgery on my sister. His gifts have extended her life to be here with me now. My family has the highest of praise for Dr. Armitage. I truly hope he stays in the area and is simply leaving Medicorp.

  • Shirley Wagner

    I read in the comments section that quite a few doctors who are tired of Medicorp and its practices are moving to the Hospital in Spotsylvania when it opens. Could Dr. Armitage be one of those? I certainly hope so.

    He has twice saved my husband’s life (with the help of prayers). If he moves from this area, it will be a loss of great portions.

    The loss he and his family suffered as result of his son’s tragic death is beyond comprehension.

    He will be greatly missed. My husband and I wish he and his family the best. If he is in the area, he will certainly continue to be our heart surgeon of choice.

  • Les & Jean Potteiger

    The year 2007 was our worst and our best year! Dr. Amitage saved both our lives! Les had a double bypass after a heart attack and three months later Jean had a triple bypass and aortic valve replacement by the best, most caring doctor we have ever met. If he leaves the area, Fredericksburg will have lost a tremendous asset. We will seek him out if we ever need heart surgery again. Our best wishes to an outstanding surgeon and gentleman. We will miss him and his staff if they follow him.

  • Fran Thomas

    Dr John Armitage proves you can be a great physician, successful surgeon, and still be a gentle, loving human being who imparts empathy and concern to your patients. I am alive today because I found this man who did my valve replacement and aortic aneurysm graft. My life was given back to me just like he described on Good Friday, 2007. I pray wherever he and his family go, they will be embraced and appreciated, because I think they are amazing people who change lives by example.

  • David Sellers

    When I was recovering from a valve job, I heard some of the nurses refer to Dr. Armitage as “Johnny A,’ as if he were some kind of super hero. Which, indeed, he is!

  • James McCloskey

    Dr. Armitage will be missed. Not only as a surgeon, but as a person who cares about people. Soon after I moved to the Fredericksburg area I suffered an Aortic Dissection while on business in D.C. I had emergency surgery at Washington Hospital Center. Dr. Armitage did not perform my surgery but he followed my recovery and took a great interest in my health.

    Over the next two years he watched closely over me, as my Aorta grew in size. He helped guide me with a true concern and compassion. Dr. Armitage helped when my Abdominal Aorta dilated quickly and reached 7.7 cm. He unselfishly coordinated my consult in Houston Texas and spent as much time as I needed to understand the risks and find my best option.

    In the past few weeks Dr. Armitage called me personally after a CT scan. He went over my new Aortic Aneurysm with my wife. He had truly lost sleep over my new condition and we discussed the need to schedule surgery. After 6 surgeries, my wife has been through a lot. The way Dr. Armitage took the time to consult with her to understand the risks showed his compassion. He is a skilled surgeon, there is no doubt. More importantly, Dr. Armitage, is a good man.

    James McCloskey

  • johnqpublic

    The discussion around employed physicians not being happy at MWH is not new news within the healthcare circle at MWH, which is a little surprising given the high salaries and low productivity expectations of the employed physicians. And HCA is spelled with four letters in the inner sanctum. Providers and patients will not leave MWH for another local hospital as long as the services and support are in place to take care of everyone’s needs; however, the latter does not hold true. Physicians in the community are so ready for a new facility to provide an alternative to the 500 pound gorilla on the hill.

  • Darlene Roles

    What a major loss for the Fredericksburg area…… Dr. Armatage saved our mother’s life a couple years ago. He performed surgery on a disected aorta flawlessly. It was difficult convincing her to have the surgery but he was there every step of the way. He called her from his cell phone and gave us his home phone number in case she changed her mind. He has saved so many lives and I hope this was his decision to leave Mary Washington. We wish him much happiness wherever he goes.


    Dr Armitage saved my husband in 2001. He is a great doctor
    and has a great bed side matter. I cant believe MWH would
    not try to do more to keep great dotors[I forgot we are talking
    about Medicorp they are about money not great dotors] I just want to thank Dr Armitage for being there for my husband and I hope he stays in the area. He will be missed.

  • Erika Vasquez

    My Husband had to have Quadruple Bypass Surgery in 2005 and we were so lucky to have Dr. Armitage perform the Surgery, We cannot understand how that Hospital Administration let such an excellent, caring Doctor get away, is it possible because he is honest? I am so worried if my Husband has Heart problems in the Future we will never find another Doctor like Dr. Armitage as I feel his Replacement at MWH was chosen by the same Administration which decided to save Money and outsource the Solution that caused so many horrible Problems. We do wish Dr.Armitage the very Best

  • yiwu

    n excellent, caring Doctor get away, is it possible because he is honest? I am so worried if my Husband has Heart problems in the Future we will never find another Doctor like Dr. Armi