Three female doctors suing a prominent LA orthopedic surgeon claim their reports of his alleged troubling behavior were ignored for years until they were fired in retaliation.
Madonna Fernandez-Frackelton, Dr. Haleh Badkoobehi and Dr. Jennifer Hsu claim they faced a wall of opposition after filing a lawsuit against Dr. Louis Kwong, the former head of Harbor-UCLA Medical’s orthopedics department Center in Torrance, California.
Kwong is accused of sexual harassment, retaliation and lewd conduct, including carrying a gun in his practice and sticking his finger in the wound of an unconscious patient while making sexual noises.
While Kwong continues to be paid more than $1 million while he is under investigation, the trio claims they were removed from their roles after filing two lawsuits.
Fernandez-Frackelton claims that when she questioned why Kwong remained on the payroll, she was told the hospital should “give a talented man a chance before you turn into a pumpkin.”
Dr. Louis Kwong, former chief of orthopedics at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, pictured with a gun on his hip in his operating room
LA’s top surgeon is facing a slew of sexual harassment and lewd conduct allegations, including sticking his finger in an unconscious patient’s wound while making sex noises
Kwong, a volunteer sheriff’s deputy, reportedly walked into his operating room with a gun on his hip, amid a slew of disturbing allegations made against the doctor.
He allegedly asked for a baseball game to be televised following a patient’s surgery.
Kwong also allegedly showed Badkoobehi a sedated patient’s penis after being told it was large.
The local doctors also felt encouraged to go to strip clubs together — and were sometimes taken against their consent, the lawsuit alleges.
According to the lawsuit, Kwong once asked other Harbor-UCLA employees, “Who wants to take body pictures of Dr. Badkoobehi?’
And according to their lawsuit, Kwong often delayed emergency surgery so he could perform elective procedures.
“We actually had to play Tetris while moving pieces to calm him down,” Hsu said LA times.
But the three female doctors said in their lawsuit that their complaints about him were ignored for years, and that there was intense misogyny at the facility, with all three saying they were paid less than their male counterparts.
Kwong has worked at the hospital since 1990 and was placed on leave in March 2022.
Dr. Jennifer Hsu filed the lawsuit along with two of her colleagues, claiming that Kwong’s continued reshuffling of operations led to others “basically playing Tetris while spinning pieces to try to appease him”
Dr. Madonna Fernandez-Frackelton says she was removed as emergency department program director and replaced by a less experienced man after she complained
Dr. Haleh Badkoobehi claimed that the surgeon asked other employees if they wanted to take “body shots” of her
Kwong was ultimately placed on administrative leave in the spring of 2022, but Harbor UCLA has insisted that its policy means he will remain on paid leave while he is under investigation.
Since being placed on administrative leave, Kwong has earned nearly $1 million in wages and benefits in a year, the county said. salary database.
“This system of investigating everything is beyond problematic,” Badkoobehi said.
“They received complaint after complaint after complaint for years, and they were covered up. They were ignored.’
Badkoobehi was the one who claimed Kwong stuck his finger in a hip wound and claimed he made sexual noises while stating he was “finding the G-spot.”
Despite the hospital’s CEO saying the allegations about Kwong were “very serious,” nothing changed, Badkoobehi said.
This was echoed by Fernandez-Frackelton, who said she immediately became aware that her allegations would cause significant unrest at the hospital.
“I knew that if I filed a complaint that (the oversight board) considered legitimate, I was putting the residence, the hospital and everyone at risk,” she said.
Kwong’s suspension came only after the doctors filed their complaints with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, a legislative body with the authority to close the entire facility.
In their complaint, they said that Harbor-UCLA Department of Orthopedic Surgery leadership and hospital leadership have known about and acknowledged these instances of unprofessional conduct for years.
“However, we believe that adequate substantive changes have not been made to correct this behavior and improve this culture.”
Harbor-UCLA Medical Center said in response to the lawsuits that it “remains a premier institution committed to excellence in both education and care.”
Their complaints reportedly led to them losing their prestigious role at the hospital.
Fernandez-Frackelton says she was removed as emergency department program director and replaced by a less experienced man.
Badkooobehi was also punished by being removed as associate program director for orthopedic surgery residents after she was asked to investigate allegations that Kwong instigated a baseball game in an operating room.
Badkooobehi said a previous 2019 complaint about another doctor, which went viral on Reddit, was also used to pressure her to drop her allegations.
According to text messages obtained by the LA Times, she received a text that read, “I wish you would have called me about this. “I am very concerned that once the story disappears from Harbor, it will no longer be under our control and may very well risk mitigation and assume that the Reddit thread represents real experiences and observations.”
“This will undoubtedly focus on an investigation into reported events and personalities,” the text added.
Carol Gillam, representing the doctors, said: ‘This story is unfortunately all too familiar of powerful doctors in prestigious teaching hospitals abusing patients and flaunting their own privileges and connections to the men who are supposed to supervise, discipline them and remove. .’
In a statement, Health Services said, “Harbor-UCLA remains a premier institution, committed to excellence in both education and care.”
It claimed that the hospital’s leadership was “already working to resolve the board’s concerns and expects to do so in the very near future.”