Kaiser Permanente has suspended a physician who handled high-risk pregnancies at its Fresno hospital, more than four months after the Los Angeles Times reported that doctors and nurses there had repeatedly questioned his competence.
In a statement released late Friday, interim hospital Administrator Linda Monte said that, effective immediately, perinatologist Hamid Safari would not be able to provide care to any Kaiser member in a hospital or outpatient setting.
"Kaiser Permanente is committed to ensuring the safety of our patients, and we take this obligation to our members and patients seriously," Monte said in the statement.
Safari allegedly botched at least two deliveries after staff members began raising concerns about his skills and demeanor, The Times reported in October. One baby died in the delivery room in April 2005; another died months after her January 2004 birth. Safari has been accused of gross negligence by the Medical Board of California.
His attorney, Stephen D. Schear, has said his client did nothing wrong. Neither Safari nor Schear could be reached Friday.
In January, federal inspectors criticized the way Kaiser responded to complaints about Safari and said that had the hospital kept a closer watch over its medical staff, the two babies might still be alive.
Days later, the hospital's administrator stepped down.
In July 2005, three months after the second baby's death, Kaiser imposed restrictions on Safari, barring him from performing vaginal deliveries and requiring him to be monitored by another physician or advanced-practice nurse. The restrictions became permanent last April, hospital officials said.
Since September, Safari has not performed any surgeries or caesarean sections and has served as a consultant at the hospital, they said.
Monte said the hospital decided it had to take further action "after detailed and comprehensive quality reviews during the last year." It also was cooperating with the medical board's investigation of Safari, she said.
Safari has the ability to appeal any discipline against him, and that process can take months. Monte said state law prevented her from "discussing publicly any peer review matters or inquiry into Dr. Safari's quality of care."
Kaiser still faces a lawsuit by two doctors who contend they were punished after raising concerns about Safari's work.