The state Respiratory Care Board began legal proceedings Friday to suspend the license of the graveyard shift respiratory therapist who often worked beside convicted "Angel of Death" killer Efren Saldivar.
The board petitioned an administrative law judge in Los Angeles to take the disciplinary action against Ursula Anderson, 34, who admitted during questioning by authorities that she obtained a potentially lethal muscle relaxer for Saldivar and never reported her suspicions that he was killing patients at Glendale Adventist Medical Center.
A hearing was scheduled Thursday on the state's petition to suspend Anderson's license "while a formal accusation of unprofessional conduct is finalized," the respiratory board said. Allowing Anderson to continue treating patients could "endanger the public health," the board said in its filing.
Stephanie Nunez, the respiratory board's executive officer, said that additional accusations will probably be filed soon against three other respiratory therapists who worked with Saldivar, but that the state was not seeking immediate suspension of their licenses.
Saldivar, 32, pleaded guilty to six murder counts in March, four years after he shocked Glendale police by confessing that he had killed up to 50 patients with intravenous injections of paralyzing drugs. Saldivar soon after recanted that statement, only to give a second confession following his arrest last year, saying then that he may have killed more than 100 patients. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole on April 17.
Anderson and three other respiratory therapists were fired by Glendale Adventist in the wake of Saldivar's original admissions in 1998, and Saldivar's own state license was revoked.
In the years since, Glendale Adventist officials expressed frustration that no state disciplinary action was taken against any of the four fired respiratory therapists. State officials said they did not want to interfere with Saldivar's criminal case and thus waited for it to conclude before pursuing disciplinary cases against Anderson and other therapists who may have failed to report evidence that Saldivar was killing patients.
The board said Friday that Anderson currently works at Queen of Angels-Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. But board official Nunez suggested that Anderson has been suspended by that hospital, saying, "we have every reason to believe" that she will not be caring for patients pending resolution of the disciplinary case.
A spokesman for Queen of Angels said the hospital was prohibited from commenting on personnel matters.
Anderson was given immunity from prosecution in the criminal case, but the board's filing Friday said that did not prevent it from using her own words against her in civil disciplinary proceedings. In seeking suspension of her license, the board cited her admissions that she "aided and abetted Efren Saldivar" and accused her of negligence, incompetence and other offenses that could eventually lead to revocation of her license.
Among the board's allegations:
* "On one occasion [she] gave Saldivar succinylcholine, which she found in a surgical intensive care unit ... sitting on a window sill.... [She] gave it to him because she knew that he was killing patients with injections of succinylcholine."
* "Respondent Anderson ... did see Saldivar inject something into a patient's IV ... [and] saw Saldivar attempting to inject another patient."
* "On one occasion, [she] saw glass vials containing medication in Saldivar's locker. None of the vials contained medication used by respiratory care practitioners."
* Saldivar told [her] about his criteria for killing....[She] knew what Saldivar was doing."
* "Respondent Anderson was unable to explain why she had not reported what Saldivar was doing except to admit that she had been sexually involved with him for five months."
The state filing also quoted Anderson as saying of Saldivar, "I didn't tell him to go do this, go do that. He's a grown man. He does things on his own."
Both Anderson and Saldivar admitted having an affair while working the overnight shift together about two nights a week.
Though Saldivar told police he sometimes injected patients with succinylcholine chloride--a paralyzing drug respiratory therapists are not authorized to administer--he said he usually used another drug, Pavulon, to kill patients. He used Pavulon to kill the six patients whose deaths were cited in the murder charges, authorities said.