Well, this is bizarre: The former chief medical officer of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (a giant Torrance hospital run by the county) was paid over $400,000 to sit in his lavish Manhattan Beach home for the last year.
That's because Gail Anderson was unofficially fired by the L.A. County Department of Health Services in August 2011, and has been on paid leave ever since. According to his lawyer, Richard Carroll, the county's attitude has been…
… “If we're going to pay you, we can tell you what to do. And your new job is staying in your house.”
No one knows exactly why Anderson, who had been running Harbor-UCLA for 13 years, was given the boot. The only hint: A Los Angeles Times article titled “UCLA doctor may not have followed proper credentialing procedures.”
All sources, in typical Times investigative fashion, were anonymous — except for a few experts on medical credentialing, who commented darkly that the anonymous allegations against Anderson “could be a dangerous situation.”
So the former chief (who's still listed as the current chief on the hospital's website) is crying “slander” and demanding $50 million in vicarious taxpayer dollars.
In a new lawsuit against the county, Anderson claims that the director and chief medical officer of the Department of Health Services — Mitchell Katz and Hal Yee, respectively — fed the Times lies about his performance at Harbor-UCLA.
From the lawsuit:
Despite the action being a confidential personnel matter, DR. KATZ and/or DR. YEE then deliberately, maliciously, and in conscious disregard for DR. ANDERSON's rights, leaked a news story to the Los Angeles Times regarding the humiliating public expulsion from his office of nearly thirteen years. This deliberate action jeopardized DR. ANDERSON's well-established professional and personal reputation in the international, national, regional, and local medical and professional communities, as well as the residential community where he lives and socializes. The news article was libelous per se in several respects by implying that he was a criminal and a danger to hospital staff and patients.
A couple days after the article dropped, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a hideous inspection report including a psych patient who died after refusing food and water for over two weeks — and threatened to cut off Medicare funding altogether. But after Harbor-UCLA officials scrambled to show they were making improvements, the hospital's standing with Medicare was reportedly back to normal by March.
Whether Anderson's dismissal was in anticipation of the inspection remains a mystery. But in the meantime, this former king of South Bay medicine wants his good name back.
The lawsuit says he was shamed by county officials when they escorted him out of his workplace in front of colleagues, then “falsely imprisoned” in his home for a year:
On 8/29/11, DR. ANDERSON was personally escorted out of Harbor-UCLA after being delivered a letter of Ordered Absence from Defendant MITCHELL H. KATZ MD. DR. KATZ's letter did not provide any reasons or supporting facts for the action taken against DR. ANDERSON, rather, it stated that there was a pending administrative investigation and, until such time as it is completed, DR. ANDERSON was to remain at home from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday “for any job-related communication or instructions.” The letter also noted that “Administrative Leave is not a disciplinary action.”
The suit is in anticipation of Anderson's actual firing, which his lawyer believes may be just over the horizon.
But the emotional damage is done, says the plaintiff, and comes with a price tag of $50 mill. Below, the allegations in full.