New lawsuit alleges abuse by former Endeavor Health gynecologist Fabio Ortega

A Cook County woman filed suit Monday against Endeavor Health and former gynecologist Fabio Ortega, contending the doctor sexually abused her and the health system failed to intervene after other patients complained of sexual misconduct.

Monday’s lawsuit joins 22 other lawsuits filed against Ortega and Endeavor, formerly NorthShore University HealthSystem, since 2019. Most of the suits allege the health system knew or should have known Ortega was a danger to patients. Four lawsuits, including the one filed Monday, allege the abuse took place after Endeavor was made aware that the Skokie Police Department was investigating Ortega.

Swedish Covenant Hospital, which was acquired by Endeavor in 2020, is also named in Monday’s suit.

In the suit filed Monday, the plaintiff alleges she was sexually abused by the doctor during two prenatal appointments at an Evanston facility in April and August 2017. That patient, identified in the suit as Jane Doe 300, contends the vaginal exams conducted by the gynecologist were prolonged and conducted in a manner intended to stimulate her sexually, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit states Endeavor either knew or should have known about sexual misconduct complaints other patients had raised about Ortega and Endeavor failed to properly investigate, train or discipline the doctor.

The lawsuit also alleges that Endeavor concealed the fact that Ortega was under police investigation. The plaintiff said in her suit that she did not realize she was abused by Ortega until seeing news articles about him earlier this year.

Parker Stinar, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiff in Monday’s suit, said the hospital system did not notify its patients of sexual misconduct allegations that were brought against the doctor.

“Instead they continued to cover up and conceal Ortega’s conduct,” said Stinar, who has represented other plaintiffs alleging sexual misconduct, including former patients of University of Michigan doctor Robert E. Anderson and former members of Northwestern University’s football team.

A Tribune investigation earlier this year revealed Endeavor’s pivotal role in keeping Ortega in place for years despite multiple complaints from patients. The investigation also found that several well-known health systems in Illinois, including Endeavor, allowed health care workers accused of sexual misconduct to keep seeing patients. Even when workers, including nurses and doctors, were accused by additional patients of abuse, the health systems faced few consequences from the state.

Ortega was charged with criminal sexual assault in 2018 and 2019 related to two patients. He pleaded guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse in both cases in October 2021 and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Many of the suits filed against Ortega and Endeavor or Swedish have ended in confidential settlement agreements, and a handful of suits are still pending. Attorney Tamara Holder represented nearly all of the other patients who have sued Ortega, Endeavor or Swedish alleging sexual assault by the doctor.

The most recent lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $50,000.

At a news conference, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys in Monday’s suit, Symone Shinton, said betrayal wasn’t a strong enough word to describe Endeavor’s actions toward its patients.

“Today Swedish and (Endeavor) must finally listen to the voices of the women they silenced for decades,” Shinton said. “They enabled a sexual predator. They gave him a platform. And they gaslit the women who continue to come forward and report what was going on there.”

Endeavor said in a statement that it is unable to comment on specific allegations because of patient privacy and pending litigation.

“There is nothing more important than providing a safe and trusted environment for our patients, community and team members,” the statement said. “Our policies require we investigate all allegations of abuse that are reported to us, take prompt action in all matters and fully cooperate with law enforcement.”