By Kerry Klein, KVPR NPR Bakersfield, CA
September 1, 2020
A San Joaquin Valley legislator is seeking answers from the Medical Board of California as to why the oversight agency allowed a Bakersfield doctor to remain in practice even though it determined he had been negligent with patients.
Obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Arthur Park has been associated with the deaths of at least seven mothers and babies during childbirth, according to public documents. He’s also been the subject of at least two investigations by the state medical board, and has been a defendant in at least 10 malpractice or personal injury lawsuits.
In August 2019, following the recent deaths of two mothers and one infant in his care, the medical board accused Park of gross negligence, repeated negligent acts, and failure to keep adequate or accurate medical records.
Following a subsequent investigation, however, the medical board in June recommended revoking Park’s medical license then ultimately stayed the revocation in favor of placing him on probation for five years. The decision allows Park to remain practicing, although it prohibits him from engaging in solo practice, delivering babies or practicing in a hospital setting until 2025. He must also complete courses in medical education and ethics.
The medical board reached a similar decision in the year 2000, when it stayed a license revocation and instead sentenced Park to probation after investigating the deaths of two infants in his care.
Last Friday, State Senator Melissa Hurtado penned a letter to medical board President Denise Pines and Governor Gavin Newsom asking for justification for the decision to allow Park to remain in practice. She also asked the agency to explain how it informs patients of its disciplinary actions and whether Park is still able to receive referrals from other doctors in his practice.
“Due to the volume and outpouring of requests from my constituents, and because of this state level decision, under the Governor’s Administration, I would like to request additional information on how a license suspension and probation was determined as part of settlement,” Hurtado’s letter reads.
Hurtado also cc’ed Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Secretary Lourdes Castro Ramirez of the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency, and Department of Consumer Affairs President Kimberly Kirchmeyer, all of whom are involved in medical board investigations.
The letter follows a campaign by the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog that earlier this year collected signatures requesting that Hurtado and State Senator Shannon Grove urge the medical board to revoke Park’s license.
Michele Monseratt-Ramos, the patient advocate who organized the campaign, said in a July interview that more than 2,500 people had already offered their signatures. “We’re actually empowering young mothers and families in Bakersfield to engage in their healthcare, and that’s incredibly important,” she said.
Hurtado’s letter requests a response from the medical board by Friday, Sept. 4. A representative of the agency said it had received the letter and would respond by her deadline. A receptionist at Park’s office said he had no comment.