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UCLA doctor may not have followed proper credentialing procedures

Gail V. Anderson Jr., chief medical officer at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, is being investigated by L.A. County. He was placed on paid administrative leave and escorted from his office.

September 03, 2011|By Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times
  • A patient is rushed into the emergency room at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
A patient is rushed into the emergency room at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

The chief medical officer at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center may not have followed proper procedures for credentialing doctors at the hospital and is being investigated by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, according to sources familiar with the inquiry.

Gail V. Anderson Jr., who is also an associate dean at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, was placed on paid administrative leave from the county hospital earlier this week and was escorted out of his office. His locks were changed and his computer secured, sources said.

In addition to possible irregularities in the credentialing of other doctors, authorities are probing aspects of Anderson's own credential to treat patients, according to the sources, who did not want to be named because they were not authorized to speak about the investigation.

Top medical personnel at county hospitals recently were directed to see patients by Mitchell Katz, who became the director of the county health services department earlier this year. Katz declined to comment Friday on Anderson's leave or the investigation, saying the leave is a personnel matter. Anderson could not be reached.

The credentialing process ensures that doctors can safely practice medicine at hospitals.

Under state law, physicians must be credentialed and be granted privileges at the hospitals where they work, according to the California Hospital Assn. During the credentialing process, administrators typically check with the Medical Board of California on the status of the person's medical license, run a criminal background check, verify the education record, review the malpractice claim history and check if the doctor is board-certified.

The process is "extremely important," said Dorel Harms, senior vice president of the California Hospital Assn. "You don't want somebody who has been a pediatrician all his life doing neurosurgery."

James Lott, executive vice president of the Hospital Assn. of Southern California, said that it "could be a dangerous situation. You may have a person treating a patient beyond his skill set or scope of practice."

Not going through the proper credentialing process could potentially affect a hospital's accreditation, said Elizabeth Eaken Zhani, spokeswoman for the Joint Commission, the accrediting agency for Harbor-UCLA.

In the last three years, the Joint Commission has received 21 complaints at Harbor-UCLA that met criteria for review, Zhani said. The complaints were related to standards dealing with organizational leadership, the care and treatment of patients and patient rights and responsibilities.

The executive staff at the hospital was informed that Anderson had been placed on leave and that William Stringer, chief of internal medicine, was named interim chief medical officer, doctors at the hospital said.

"It was a surprise," said Adam Jonas, chair of the pediatrics department at Harbor-UCLA. "That is all I can say." Jonas said he didn't know any details concerning the investigation.

Robert Hockberger, chair of the emergency department at Harbor-UCLA, also said he wasn't aware of what county officials were investigating. But Hockberger said he believed that county was trying to "make sure that the physician leadership is strong, that they have both the authority and accountability to do their job on a daily basis."

anna.gorman@latimes.com

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