Three doctors are being fired and three others suspended without pay at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center after auditors alleged they billed the inner-city hospital for hours spent in private practice, it was reported Friday.
"We are, in essence, cleaning house," said Fred Leaf, chief operating officer of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. "There's still a large percentage of employees that don't do their job, aren't committed, are dishonest, and need to be dealt with quickly and decisively."
The hospital, the only full-service medical facility in South Los Angeles, has been under fire for two years over patient deaths and reports of shoddy medical care.
Since January 2004, the county-run hospital has fired or taken steps to dismiss 13 physicians. Eleven others, including the head of pediatrics, resigned under threat of discipline.
Three doctors were told this week that they will be fired, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing a memo from county health officials sent Wednesday to the county Board of Supervisors. They are Eugene Christian Jr., M.D., head of geriatrics; internist Anthony Kingsley, M.D., and Rita Ogbo, M.D., who works at a health center overseen by King/Drew.
In Kingsley's case, auditors said claims for Medi-Cal reimbursement were submitted from his private clinic in Carson, Calif., in 2003 and 2004 at a time when he was on medical leave from King/Drew, recovering from a car accident.
In addition, neurologist Carlos Rosario, M.D., and neurosurgeon Daniel Le May, M.D., were suspended this week pending investigation of moonlighting allegations against them. Also suspended was nephrologist Harry Ward, M.D. Auditors who investigated Ward in 1998 concluded that he had worked at a private dialysis center on county time.
Le May and Kingsley could not be reached for comment but Christian, Ogbo, Ward and Rosario told the Times on Thursday that they did not violate any county rules.
"Everything there, it's a lie," Ogbo said. "I'm the early bird. I'm the first to come, I'm the last to leave."
Rosario said he received permission from supervisors to perform outside work and alleged that he was targeted for complaining about misuse of funds at King/Drew.
"There isn't anything that I have done which is irregular," Rosario said. "They've been harassing me since I've been here for opening my mouth about things."