Case Highlights Urgent Need for Reform of Doctor Oversight in California
Los Angeles, CA – The nonprofit patient advocacy group Consumer Watchdog called on state regulators to immediately suspend the license of a Salinas doctor being prosecuted by the Monterey County District Attorney’s office for sexually assaulting a patient. A separate lawsuit alleges that two eyewitnesses saw Dr. Robert Wlodarczyk assault the patient as she was coming out of anesthesia following a cardiac procedure. Although the patient reported the assault to the state Osteopathic Board shortly thereafter, the Board has done nothing more than a year later to protect the doctor’s other patients who could also be at risk.
See the KSBW-8 story here.
“It is shocking that regulators would sit on their hands when there is evidence that a doctor’s patients could be at imminent risk of sexual assault. State regulators must immediately suspend Dr. Wlodarczyk’s license to ensure his patients are safe from harm,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog. “Sadly, the lack of action in this case mirrors regulators’ failure to protect patients in countless other cases of patient harm that go uninvestigated every year. The national reckoning on sexual harassment and assault in the workplace must reach the sanctity of the doctor’s office, where patients should feel safe.”
Despite the existence of enough evidence to spur a criminal trial for assault, the Board has chosen to allow Dr. Wlodarczyk to continue seeing patients with no restrictions until the criminal prosecution is concluded. Regulators’ failure to act in this case spotlights the need for reform of the state licensing Boards that oversee doctors.
According to her testimony, Ms. Regina Linares learned she had been sexually assaulted when two eyewitnesses reported the incident to administrators at the Salinas Valley Medical Center. After the incident, Ms. Linares, herself a 17-year employee of the hospital, was forced to continue working in proximity to the doctor.
Linares thanked the witnesses who spoke out about her assault, "Without their courage, I would probably never have known that Dr. Wlodarczyk sexually assaulted me when he thought I was unconscious and defenseless. The kind of doctor who would do something like this to his own patient – well, I can’t imagine what sort of physician would do a thing like that. But it’s only because of the bravery of these two other female employees of the hospital that I have the courage to attempt to hold Dr. Wlodarczyk accountable for what he has done,"
Download Ms. Linares’ statement here.
Download the lawsuit brought on Ms. Linares’ behalf by Cartwright, Scruggs, Fulton & Walther here.
In the state of California, doctors are not required to divulge past disciplinary actions against them, even when their misconduct was sexual assault. Patients in California should have the right to know their doctor’s disciplinary history and regulators should take action against doctors who have harmed patients with efficiency and transparency, said Consumer Watchdog.