EAST MEADOW, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A police investigation is underway after a surgeon on Long Island was charged with trying to strangle an operating room nurse.

Nassau University Medical Center surgeon Dr. Venkatesh Sasthakonar allegedly tried to strangle the registered nurse with an elastic sweatshirt cord.

“To be in an operating room and the turmoil it must have caused,” hospital worker Patricia Carratu told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.

Nicole Fiene, visiting her grandmother, said patients and staff seemed to be in an uproar.

“That a surgeon, a doctor, had strangled one of the nurses and we’re all talking about it,” she said. “So in shock.”

Carratu says Sasthakonar has “a good reputation as a surgeon,” but the nurse has worked at the hospital for a number of years.

According to the felony complaint, Sasthakonar wasn’t pleased that the 51-year-old nurse gave medication to his patient at the wrong time.

“I should kill you for this,” he’s quoted as saying, allegedly tightening the cord on her neck “causing her to gasp for air.”

Defense attorney Melbyn Roth says it was all in jest.

“He did not attempt to strangle her to cause a breathing problem,” he said. “There was no intent to harm the nurse. He knows the nurse, has worked with this nurse, considers her a friend.”

Roth claims the whole situation is “blown out of proportion.”

Sasthakonar lives in Alberton with his wife, also a physician with NUMC. He declined an interview request from CBS2. A specialist in bariatric surgery, he’s said to have an unblemished record.

“I would ask somebody to start conducting interviews,” patient advocate Nancy Keane said. “Checking HR records and asking people in the room what happened, and is the nurse okay?”

The nurse claims she suffered substantial pain to her neck. The hospital says at no time was the patient’s safety affected.

Sasthakonar pleaded not guilty. He posted $3,500 bail and was issued a “stay away” order from the alleged victim.

The doctor’s attorney says he hopes to resolve this quickly, not go to trial, be reinstated as a surgeon, and get back to treating patients.


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