More patients sue former Endeavor Health gynecologist Fabio Ortega, alleging sexual assault

Three more women are suing former OB-GYN Dr. Fabio Ortega and the health systems where he worked, alleging the doctor sexually assaulted them as patients.

A total of 34 former patients have now sued Ortega, Endeavor Health and/or Swedish Hospital alleging inappropriate conduct by the doctor.

Two of the newly filed lawsuits are against Ortega and Endeavor, with the women contending that the hospital system failed to protect them from the doctor despite knowing, at the times of their appointments, that he was under police investigation for abusing a patient. Another woman is suing Ortega and Swedish Hospital, where Ortega worked before joining Endeavor. Swedish is now part of Endeavor.

Endeavor said in a statement Monday it “cannot further comment on pending lawsuits.” Attempts to reach Ortega for comment Monday were unsuccessful.

So far, 23 of the lawsuits involving Ortega, Endeavor and/or Swedish have settled. Ortega pleaded guilty in October 2021 to aggravated criminal sexual abuse of two former patients, was sentenced to three years in prison and has a lifetime requirement to remain on the state’s sex offender registry.

A Tribune investigation earlier this year described how Endeavor — one of the largest hospital systems in the Chicago area — allowed Ortega to continue seeing patients for years despite complaints. The investigation showed that a number of well-known Illinois health systems, including Endeavor, also allowed workers accused of sexual misconduct with patients to continue working. Health systems faced few meaningful consequences for allowing alleged abusers to have continued access to patients, the Tribune found.

One of Ortega’s former patients, identified in her lawsuit as Jane Doe 49, alleged that following the birth of her first child in late December 2000 Ortega performed a vaginal and rectal exam on the 20-year-old without a medical need and without her consent.

Jane Doe 49 also alleges that the hospital allowed Ortega to keep seeing patients unsupervised despite knowing about previous complaints from female patients. Swedish never informed her that Ortega had been accused of inappropriate conduct by other patients, she contends in the suit.

In another one of the new lawsuits, a woman identified as Jane Doe 71 alleges that Ortega made inappropriate comments and performed unnecessary vaginal exams during prenatal appointments in 2017. In her lawsuit, she contends that Endeavor was negligent and knew or should have known that Ortega was a danger to patients.

A third former patient contends in her lawsuit that Endeavor assigned her to see Ortega throughout her pregnancy in 2016 and 2017 because her prior OB-GYN was unable to take on additional patients. The patient, identified as Jane Doe 72, alleges that the doctor performed medically unnecessary vaginal exams throughout her pregnancy and engaged in inappropriate behavior during postpartum care.

In June 2017, according to the lawsuit, Ortega instructed the patient to perform Kegel exercises while his fingers were still inside her, and slid his fingers back and forth and stated “that’s a good girl.”

Jane Doe 72 and Jane Doe 71 said in their lawsuits that Endeavor never informed them that Ortega was under criminal investigation by the Skokie police because another patient alleged he had sexually assaulted her in early 2017.

With the new lawsuits, Endeavor has now been sued by six women who contended they were assaulted or abused by Ortega after Endeavor knew he was under police investigation. Endeavor has settled two of those lawsuits.

A Skokie police report shows that police first contacted Endeavor — then known as NorthShore University HealthSystem — in February 2017 about a patient who alleged Ortega assaulted her during an appointment. Police then spent months investigating, going back and forth with Endeavor about Ortega.

Ortega was put on leave Aug. 14, 2017, and resigned from NorthShore about a year later, Ortega said in response to questions raised in one of the lawsuits against him.

The three new lawsuits were filed on behalf of the women by attorney Tamara Holder and her co-counsels Johanna Raimond and Stephan Blandin. Holder represents most of the women who have sued Ortega, Endeavor and Swedish.