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Hospital worker charged with battery

February 03, 2007|Susannah Rosenblatt | Times Staff Writer

A laboratory employee at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey was arrested Friday on a felony charge of sexual battery against a paraplegic male patient with multiple sclerosis, authorities said.

Alfredo Barba, 63, has worked at Rancho for 30 years, authorities said.

The county-operated hospital launched an investigation after the victim's roommate complained to nurses about witnessing the alleged abuse earlier this week, officials said.

Hospital officials on Friday morning reported the allegation to county police, who took Barba into custody, Los Angeles County Police Chief Margaret York said.

No other incidents have been reported to law enforcement, York said, though the Sheriff's Department will investigate the possibility of additional abuse.

Barba was convicted in 1987 of solicitation and lewd acts and sentenced to 12 years probation, said David Sommers, spokesman for Supervisor Don Knabe, based on information Knabe's office received from an investigating officer with the county police. The conviction was later overturned.

The county health department "cannot comment on details of the investigation or on personnel matters," a statement said. Every health department employee undergoes a complete background check when hired, said spokesman Michael Wilson. Subsequent allegations are investigated, but the department "does not regularly check for conviction records of employees," Wilson said in a statement.

County police are an internal force of about 500 sworn officers who provide security at county parks, hospitals, clinics and other facilities.

Knabe, whose district includes the specialty hospital, was "shocked and appalled" by news of the incident, spokesman Sommers said. Knabe has been a longtime supporter of the medical facility. "If these allegations are true, they need to be dealt with swiftly and accordingly," Sommers said.

Barba was being held on $20,000 bail.


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