Arup K. Roy believes his 84-year-old father died unnecessarily at Virtua-West Jersey Hospital Marlton following an angioplasty to unblock a heart artery last year.

The Marlton hospital is one of nine statewide, and the only one in South Jersey, allowed to perform the procedure without a heart surgery program on site - a policy that is now being challenged.

In an Oct. 14 letter, Roy - a physician in internal medicine at Ancora State Psychiatric Hospital in Camden County - stated that he does not believe a community hospital such as Virtua Marlton should be allowed to continue the procedures without surgical backup.

"These community hospitals have a less organized structure for conducting any serious activity like cardiac catheterization," he wrote.

The letter, addressed "to whom it may concern," was given to the Inquirer on Thursday by a representative of competing hospitals that oppose the current policy.

In an interview on Thursday, Roy said he wrote the letter because "I don't want anyone else to suffer like me because of medial error and negligence. . . . I don't want them to do something like this to anyone else."

Virtua Marlton's medical director of operations, Salvatore M. Moffa, said federal privacy laws prevented him from responding in detail.

After reading Roy's letter and reviewing the patient's chart, however, Moffa said: "The patient's clinical course and what transpired do, in fact, as evidenced in the chart, have discrepancy with what Dr. Roy stated in his letter."

Angioplasty is a widely used surgical procedure in which a catheter is threaded through a vessel from a small incision, usually near the groin, to unblock a clogged artery. A balloon is inflated to restore blood flow, and a stent - a small wire-mesh scaffold - is often inserted to keep the artery open.

In Pennsylvania, 11 hospitals - five of them in Philadelphia and its suburbs - also perform angioplasty without full surgical backup. The Pennsylvania arrangement also is by special permission.

Virtua Marlton and the eight other New Jersey hospitals have been allowed to perform angioplasty - a procedure in which a balloon is threaded into an artery and inflated to remove a blockage - as part of a large study being conducted by Thomas Aversano, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Virtua Marlton cardiologists performed 84 angioplasties in 2006, according to hospital billing records. One patient died in the hospital following the procedures at Marlton, the records show.

Friday is the final day for comments to be filed with the New Jersey Health Care Administration Board, which will determine whether the hospitals without cardiac surgery programs can continue to offer elective angioplasty; emergency procedures are not at issue.

The three South Jersey hospitals that do have open heart surgery programs - Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills, and Cooper University Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, both in Camden - oppose allowing the other hospitals to perform the procedure.

The three hospitals on Thursday cited the death of Roy's father as an example of safety problems when hospitals such as Virtua Marlton are allowed to perform angioplasty.

Contact staff writer Josh Goldstein at 215-854-4733 or