By Kerry Klein, KVPR - CENTRAL VALLEY PUBLIC RADIO
August 5, 2020
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Following a string of patient injuries and deaths, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Bakersfield has been placed on probation.
Dr. Arthur Park has been treating women and delivering babies in Bakersfield since 1988. In that time, he’s also been the defendant in at least 10 lawsuits alleging negligence, medical malpractice, or wrongful death, and he’s been associated with the deaths of at least two mothers and five newborns.
In late June, following an investigation of three of those deaths—a mother who hemorrhaged shortly after delivering a baby girl, as well as a mother and son who both died after she succumbed to complications due to high blood pressure—the California Medical Board placed Park on probation. In the board’s decision, Interim Executive Director Christine Lally and Attorney General Xavier Becerra initially recommended revoking Park’s license, but stayed the revocation in favor of probation and a remedial ethics course.
“I think it’s criminal that the medical board hasn’t taken his license away,” says Linda Rice, a Los Angeles attorney who brought two malpractice lawsuits against Park in 2008 and 2012. The suits alleged negligence in both prenatal care and delivery after two babies were born with permanent shoulder injuries and one also suffered developmental disabilities.
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“I just haven’t encountered that many physicians that I felt were incompetent doctors,” Rice says, but in Park’s case, “I think it goes beyond incompetent.” Both suits were settled out of court.
Michele Monserrat-Ramos learned about the doctor via complaints. She’s a patient advocate with the non-profit organization Consumer Watchdog, and she says she’s so far encountered six families with grievances about the doctor—two of whom lost loved ones during childbirth. “The people that I’ve spoken to and the stories that they’ve shared with me have been incredibly tragic,” she says.
As a result, Monserrat-Ramos created a web campaign to collect signaturesimploring state legislators to urge the medical board to revoke Park’s license. “Through our outreach thus far, 2,500 families in Bakersfield have sent emails to State Senator Shannon Grove and State Senator Melissa Hurtado requesting that they intervene to make the medical board accountable and Dr. Park accountable for the death and long-term harm to women and babies in Bakersfield,” she says.
Under probation, Park isn’t allowed to deliver babies, see patients without supervision or practice in a hospital until 2025, during which time he must also enroll in a course in medical education and ethics.
It’s the second probation of Park’s career. Following an investigation into the deaths of two infants the doctor delivered in the 1990s, the medical board in 2000 made a similar decision to sentence Park to probation rather than revoking his license.
Park’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.