Judge Rules Doctor Can Expand Retaliation Suit Against Los Angeles County

A former Harbor-UCLA Medical Center physician can expand the scope of his lawsuit against Los Angeles County to allege he was fired in 2018 for exposing alleged wrongdoing in the treatment of patients, a judge ruled Monday.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory Keosian said Dr. Timothy Ryan can add an additional cause of action for alleged retaliation in violation of the state Labor Code and must do so within five days. Lawyers for Los Angeles County did not oppose Ryan's motion, but they deny any retaliation occurred in the loss of his job and further say that no improper patient care occurred.

Ryan originally sued the county and Dr. Rodney White in January 2016, alleging retaliation under the state Health and Safety Code. The plaintiff, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, since 2013 had served as the staff vascular surgeon at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, which is owned and managed by Los Angeles County.

In 2014, Ryan was asked to take part in what he believed as an unnecessary surgery on a patient for the benefit of a third-party medical device maker, according to his suit.

Although the patient was treated in 2013 with drugs and allowed to go home after she no longer was having symptoms, Ryan believes White and his subordinates convinced the woman to check into the hospital emergency room and falsely report she had chest pains, the suit alleges.

White asked Ryan to take part in the procedure involving the patient, but he refused in the belief it would have required him to "conspire to perform a medically unnecessary surgery," according to the complaint.

The surgery on the patient went ahead anyway after she was talked into signing a consent form, the suit alleges. While undergoing the procedure, she suffered complications that resulted in her having problems communicating orally and in writing, according to the plaintiff.

Ryan reported his concerns about the treatment of the patient and other alleged compromises of patient care to the hospital's senior faculty, the California Medical Board and the District Attorney's Office, the suit states.

White, along with others, began retaliating against Ryan in June 2014 by not referring cases to him, by marginalizing the plaintiff within his department, by removing his name from a research project and by filing a "frivolous" lawsuit against him in July 2015, Ryan's suit alleges.

Ryan, who was fired in October 2018, alleges the hospital knew he was being subjected to a backlash for coming forward with his concerns about patient care, but failed to protect him.

Ryan has suffered a loss of referrals and has been unable to advance his career since his firing, according to his suit.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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