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12/28/2012 9:17:00 AM
Sahlolbei sues hospital in federal court
Dr. Hossain Sahlolbei
Dr. Hossain Sahlolbei

Marty Bachman


BLYTHE - When the doorbell rang at the home of former Palo Verde Healthcare District Board Member Rosalie Carlton on Christmas Eve, it wasn't Santa; it was a process server with a lawsuit filed by Palo Verde Hospital Surgeon Dr. Hossain Sahlolbei.

Sahlolbei's suit, which was filed in United States District Court Central District of California, was also served on former board president Jim Carney, current board members Quitty Pinon and Catalina McClain, the Healthcare District doing business as Palo Verde Hospital and hospital CEO Peter Klune.

It says the defendants violated Sahlolbei's rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and seeks injunctive relief and damages for alleged civil rights violations.

Sahlolbei's complaint says the defendants have attacked him because of his vocal criticism of hospital policies and procedures that he believes are not in the patients' of Palo Verde Hospital's best interests.

"On numerous occasions Dr. Sahlolbei has publicly decried, at Board meetings and other public forums, the culture of cronyism and corruption that he sees at the Hospital, including a recent episode in which Medical Staff policies were secretly re-written to the detriment of patient care so that defendants Carney and Pinon could give favors to a local business with which they are personally and financially connected," the suit states, though it did not provide any evidence of the pair's alleged connections.

The suit contends that defendants retaliated against Sahlolbei and penalized him because of his stance on patient care in violation of the state's Business and Professions Code as well as its Health & Safety Code.

Sahlolbei accuses Carney and Pinon of trying to expel him from the hospital staff after he took a stand against a 20-year hospital contract between the city of Blythe and Blythe Ambulance, which employs Pinon, to provide Basic Life Support (BLS) service to Blythe residents.

The accusation is a twist on a recent report issued by Healthcare District attorneys that accuses Sahlolbei of promoting the business of Desert Air Ambulance, competitors to Blythe Ambulance for BLS service.

The suit states that when Carney supporters won election in November 2010, they began a campaign to force Sahlolbei out of the hospital. With a majority of votes, the complaint says defendants used that muscle to change the hospital's transfer policy, which put both Blythe Ambulance and Desert Air on a rotating schedule in which each was on-call every other day.

Sahlolbei's complaint accuses the defendants of transferring the authority to choose a transport company away from the patient's primary care provider to the emergency room physicians. He accuses the defendants of not consulting first with the medical staff before acting and then acting in closed session, which he says violated the Brown Act.

"To save face and avoid further accusations of having violated the Brown Act, the Board ratified the Transfer Policy during open session at the June 27 meeting," the suit reads. "However, the Board still refused to consult with the Medical Staff regarding the Transfer Policy."

The suit contends that through California Public Records Act requests, Sahlolbei uncovered documents that "proved" the board had been working on a new Transfer Policy for months prior to the vote to implement, and the board did not need to change the policy by declaring an emergency.

Hospital officials have said they had to approve a new transfer policy under federal laws and that it improved patient care by allowing an emergency room physician to transfer a patient without having to wait until he could locate the primary care physician.

The complaint then lists approximately 20 actions taken by Sahlolbei, including vocal objections aired at public meetings and letters written, to justify his accusations that the defendants had retaliated against him.

"Dr Sahlolbei is informed and believes, and thereon alleges, that Defendants' acts of retaliation have been malicious and oppressive, designed to hurt and 'punish' Dr. Sahlolbei on a personal and financial level for daring to speak out against the corruption of Carney and his cohorts," the suit states.

The suit then contends that numerous sources at numerous times had told Sahlolbei he should not criticize the board. He alleged that Pinon had told someone that he was a "illegal alien" and "not one of us" or words to that effect. According to the suit, Sahlolbei believes the defendants have encouraged hospital staff and management to report him as being disruptive.

The suit alleges that the defendants conspired to prevent Sahlolbei from continuing his privileges at the hospital over an incident in which he verbally reprimanded a nurse for "abandoning" a patient. Sahlolbei contends the hospital put the nurse on administrative leave for a week and the administration did not criticize Sahlolbei over the incident until three months later, after his criticism of the transfer policy, when it asked the Medical Executive Committee (MEC) to investigate the incident.

The complaint says the MEC reported no wrongdoing by Sahlolbei but that the defendants used the incident as a pretext to terminate his medical staff privileges.

"This is evidenced by the fact that the MEC determined through its investigation that the nurse wanted to withdraw his complaint about Dr. Sahlolbei but defendant Klune dissuaded him," the suit states. "The MEC also determined that defendant Klune interfered in the investigation by making negative comments about Dr. Sahlolbei to one of the Medical Staff investigators while the investigation was pending."

The suit contends that Klune and the board secretly referred many of Sahlolbei's cases to an outside anonymous reviewer without telling the medical staff's peer review committee.

"This was done in an effort to have Dr. Sahlolbei's cases labeled as being below the standard of care, so that the Defendants could try to summarily suspend Dr. Sahlolbei from the Medical Staff without having to obtain the recommendation of the Medical Staff," the report states.

The suit contends that Sahlolbei was the only physician on staff to have his cases sent out for peer review and that a doctor with major allegations of malpractice had his privileges renewed without question.

The complaint contends that a fraud lawsuit the Healthcare District filed against Sahlolbei was a retaliatory act as well, and strategically planned to generate political support for Carney and Carlton, who were on the November ballot for re-election to their Healthcare District seats. Both candidates lost. The fraud lawsuit accuses Sahlolbei of having a contract with the hospital's anesthesiologist separate from the anesthesiologist's contract with the hospital.

"The allegations of the complaint are completely baseless and unproven," the suit states, claming that former board members Sandy Hudson, who won back a seat in November, and former board member Francisco Tejeda, M.D., have testified that Carney and Klune had direct contact with Barth concerning the negotiations and knew that Sahlolbei and Barth would have their own contract.

The suit further contends retaliation in the board's attempt to approve a measure that would permit the hospital to enter into an exclusive contract for surgical services that would not include Sahlolbei. The MEC obtained a temporary restraining order preventing the hospital from entering into such an agreement. That suit currently is making its way through the courts.

In his first claim for relief, Sahlolbei contends that all efforts to terminate his privileges at Palo Verde Hospital are not related to his "professional conduct" but rather his opposition to the hospital's transfer policy and mismanagement of the hospital.

"The actions of the Defendants set forth above violated Dr. Sahlolbei¹s right of free speech and rights to petition the government for a redress of his grievances, as guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution," the complaint reads. "Additionally, the actions of the Defendants set forth above violated Dr. Sahlolbei's rights to the equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, by treating him differently from others similarly situated without any rational basis for the difference in treatment."

The suit states that Sahlolbei has suffered damages through loss of income, loss of professional stature, public humiliation, mental anguish and shame at being sued for fraud and having his qualification and competence attacked without justification.

Sahlolbei asks the court to force the board to approve his privileges without conditions, to prevent the board from entering into an exclusive contract for surgical services, which results in him losing his privileges, to prevent the board from refusing him privileges based on the exercise of his free speech rights, and interfering with his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

He is seeking general, compensatory and punitive damages against the defendants in an amount proven at trial, as well as attorney fees.

None of the defendants has filed a response to the suit.

Download Sahlolbei's federal lawsuit

Related Stories:
• Dr. Hossain Sahlolbei arrested (UPDATED)
• Healthcare District Board votes 3-2 to fire CEO Peter Klune
• Former DA warns board members of potential conflicts
• TIMES EDITORIAL: Medical staff needs to take responsibility for failing grade
• Hospital receives 'F' grade from patient safety advocacy group
• Healthcare District Board authorizes CEO to issue RFPs to contract out transportation and surgical services
• TIMES EDITORIAL: Let's get bids on hospital services and then make a decision

Related Links:
• Sahlolbei no stranger to courtrooms: Hospital Chief of Staff has sued at least 17 people in Riversid
• Healthcare District files lawsuit against hospital surgeon, Hossain Sahlolbei
• Sahlolbei attorneys file demurrer in response to suit


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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Article comment by: Some Thought

Why would the anesthesiologist have to pay Dr. Sahlolbei $400.00 a day to work as an anesthesiologist at PVH? I do not understand why?
What benefit does the anesthesiologist derive from this. If you look at the contract between Dr. Barth and Pars Surgery (Dr. Sahlolbei) you see no benefit derived by the anesthesiologist. Most contracts are two sided Both benefit (one pays the other provides a service). I do not see that in the Pars Surgery contract. Would Dr. Barth have been invited back to PVH by the MEC and given privileges if he had not signed that contract with Pars Surgery?


Posted: Monday, January 7, 2013
Article comment by: Twist #3

"The complaint contends that a fraud lawsuit the Healthcare District filed against Sahlolbei was a retaliatory act as well, and strategically planned to generate political support for Carney and Carlton, who were on the November ballot for re-election to their Healthcare District seats. Both candidates lost. The fraud lawsuit accuses Sahlolbei of having a contract with the hospital's anesthesiologist separate from the anesthesiologist's contract with the hospital."

How would the public's view be if they waited for after the election so selfishly?



Posted: Monday, January 7, 2013
Article comment by: Twist #2

"The suit alleges that the defendants conspired to prevent Sahlolbei from continuing his privileges at the hospital over an incident in which he verbally reprimanded a nurse for "abandoning" a patient. Sahlolbei contends the hospital put the nurse on administrative leave for a week and the administration did not criticize Sahlolbei over the incident until three months later, after his criticism of the transfer policy, when it asked the Medical Executive Committee (MEC) to investigate the incident.

What was the nurses complaint?



Posted: Monday, January 7, 2013
Article comment by: Twist #2

"Sahlolbei accuses Carney and Pinon of trying to expel him from the hospital staff after he took a stand against a 20-year hospital contract between the city of Blythe and Blythe Ambulance, which employs Pinon, to provide Basic Life Support (BLS) service to Blythe residents. "

Was there a pre-party for city officials and later a steak dinner? Around April 2010 through May 2010.



Posted: Monday, January 7, 2013
Article comment by: Twist #1

Site Administrator's note:Please keep comments succinct; 300 words or less is optimal. Comments that are excessively verbose, rambling or too long for reasonable review may not be posted.

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013
Article comment by: Blythe Karma

This is good to have a dialog. You may think I have never have had a conversation with Dr. Sahlolbei or that I have not studied some of his cases.
YOU ARE WRONG!
You are being used as a pawn and are spewing half truths. He tried using me also.
Just let his Fraud case (anti-kickback), hopefully true depositions from the other doctors and witnesses have their day in court.


Posted: Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Article comment by: Mary Wall

Well every one deserve a vacation some people get paid to take them and I realize this whole situation is so soon very one side.

Posted: Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Article comment by: Aj McKay

@THE SHADOW KNOWS No disrespect but was Sandra Hudson the only person who votes on wages? I'm sure one person alone did not approve everything that is going on with the hospital. Was she on the board when the doctors got these high on call wages and other miscellaneous rates of pay for being head of the department recently? Or whatever reasons they get more pay? I read these articles and no matter what opinion people may have, I find it odd that 1 or 2 people either control so much or have a say so on the majority of the decision making regarding the hospital. If that's the case, shouldn't we be blaming others for not stepping up and doing whats right? Fear of a doctor isn't a good enough excuse to me. We vote for these people to represent the community. If they are fearful and cannot represent what they were elected for then they have let the people down as well.

Posted: Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Article comment by: Mary Wall

There sure is a lot of focus on new board members who can financially support themselves. but no questions were asked when (Quity) Beatrice Pin (deleted) Site Administrator's note: A portion of this comment has been removed because it violated our Terms of use Agreement. Personal attacks are not tolerated, and are a direct violation of these Terms of Use.

Posted: Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Article comment by: EL PICA BUYAS

You know that there is about 4,500 households here, 13,000 residents and about 8,000 residents that are institutionalized by the state. Out of the 4,500(13,000) households how many use the Hospitals services? Out of those 8,000 persons that are institutionalized how really use the hospital? My guess is that the 8,000 residents use it more than the locals here in town. I bet the same go's for the College here in Blythe. The point is that these institutions do not need the average person, when they have the State of California pay the full price. They only need us when it's time to vote. Until we understand the dynamics of the situation here. We will be stuck with the same poor services. Also the same people that provide these services. Plus there are twice as much men than women here, We need help. This town is dying. Before anyone new comes here, we have to fix this town. Or just stay as a pit stop for people moving East or West.

Posted: Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Article comment by: Aj McKay

I guess I'll ask again since my question wasn't posted previously. Since money is a majority of the issue here, who approved all these wages at the time? Board, management company, or hospital? Who? Can anyone shed some light on the topic? I mean, we all can't get mad for wages given to us if determined by someone else. We all love raises regardless if we earn the pay or not right? LOL! Thanks.

Posted: Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Article comment by: @ Tax Payer Pays

The Hospital District is a public entity but is supported very little by direct Tax Dollars. It is supported by its patient revenue (you might consider Medicare and Medical tax dollars?). That revenue is used for many things including Insurance to cover its Employees, Administration and Board Directors.
That is where the money will come from to fight the lawsuit Sahlolbei has filed against the Hospital and Board Directors.


Posted: Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Article comment by: The shaddow knows

To Aj McKay!
I have to change my thought on the type of person your really are! (deleted) Who do you think pushed Ms. Hudson to allowing those doctors their $3000.00 a month for doing nothing! You don't see any of them stepping up to help the hospital. (deleted) I think they all have forgotton why they became a doctor!

Site Administrator's note: A portion of this comment has been removed because it violated our Terms of use Agreement.

Posted: Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Article comment by: @ @ @@ the shadow knows & the shadow knows

You asked - Does Shalobei get paid to be on vacation?

Yes he did and may still we will find out in court.
According to the Fraud suit against him by the Hospital he was getting $400.00 a day of Dr. Barths on call pay.


Posted: Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Article comment by: @ @ ask sandra hudson

Obviously you know nothing about the law.
The District by law has to indemnify all Employees including administration (CEO,CFO) and all Board members.
By law they can not indemnify Doctors as they are not employees of the District.
Sandra Hudson does not care what the law is, she only wanted to protect her friend and renter.



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