Dr. Haleh Badkoobehi, Dr. Jennifer Hsu, and Dr. Madonna Fernandez-Frackelton are three leading doctors at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, where Louis Kwong was the head of the orthopedics department.
What Did Dr. Jennifer Hsu And The Other Doctors Do?
They claimed in a lawsuit last week that Dr. Louis Kwong, who until recently served as the department’s head of orthopedics, had engaged in sexual harassment, retaliation, and discriminatory behavior, and that Los Angeles County, the organization in charge of the large teaching hospital, had disregarded their complaints for years.
The doctors claimed in their lawsuits that Kwong’s actions created a toxic work environment and endangered patients. They claimed in one lawsuit that he sexually assaulted unconscious patients in the operating room, delayed acute surgery for county residents to perform elective procedures, and once demanded that an operating room television be changed to a baseball game he wanted to watch while the patient’s operation was being monitored.
Kwong is a volunteer deputy sheriff in Los Angeles County, which the county acknowledged; they claim he carried a gun with him while in the hospital, including in the operating room.
According to the claims, the institution was rife with misogyny. One physician said that she was asked to leave her post to make room for a male applicant who was younger and less qualified. According to her lawsuit, she was informed that the department needed to give “a talented guy a chance before you turn into a pumpkin.”
Drs. Haleh Badkoobehi, Jennifer Hsu, and Madonna Fernandez-Frackelton, a former longtime program director of emergency care at the facility, are the plaintiffs. They are all orthopedic doctors. They claim in their cases that hospital managers ignored written and verbal complaints about Kwong for years and that they were demoted or otherwise punished when they raised concerns about his behavior.
Harbor-UCLA Medical Center Has Had Other Issues In The Past
Torrance’s Harbor-UCLA Medical Hospital is a level 1 trauma hospital with 576 beds that mostly serves people of middle- and lower-class incomes. The hospital is run by the Department of Health Services for Los Angeles County and includes a well-regarded residency program connected to UCLA Medical School.
The charges against Harbor-UCLA Medical Center by Dr. Haleh Badkoobehi, Dr. Jennifer Hsu, and Dr. Madonna Fernandez-Frackelton come after similar instances at hospitals connected to esteemed institutions where patient complaints about doctors were reportedly ignored for years.
According to their lawsuits, all three doctors explored alternative measures for several years prior to bringing suit, including complaining to superiors and submitting grievances with the county. In one of the lawsuits, they claim that the issues still exist and that they are suing to “help create a safer and more tolerant atmosphere” at the hospital “for future patients, women, and other targeted groups.”
“They rely on us being too ashamed and terrified for our careers to come forward,” Badkoobehi said in an interview.
In March 2022, Dr. Louis Kwong was placed on administrative leave, and the county retained Sheppard Mullin to conduct an investigation. The law firm’s investigator declined to comment.
Dr. Louis Kwong has received up to $1 million in pay and benefits in a year, according to the website of Transparent California, a public employee pay and pension database, even though the inquiry is ongoing and he is on leave. Kwong, a UCLA Medical School alum, has been employed by Harbor-UCLA since 1990, according to his resume.
According to its website, the independent agency in charge of accrediting fellowship and residency programs after medical school, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, put Harbor-UCLA on probation in late June.
The change was made in response to a site inspection by the organization in April after Fernandez-Frackelton and all 64 of her emergency department residents complained to the overseer about the unfavorable working conditions in the hospital’s orthopedics department, which was formerly run by Kwong.