Arrowhead Regional Medical Center (ARMC) continues to be the subject of numerous investigations and inquiries.  The hospital, once a shining star in our county, has lost its luster in wake of  accusations of mismanagement, malpractice, patient abuse, and fraud.  Much of the controversy involves the empire-building by former County Administrative Office Mark Uffer and ARMC Medical Director Dr. Dev Gnanadev.

Both men are known for their tyrannical control of every aspect of hospital operations, with Gnanadev even running roughshod over the always-despotic Uffer.

In their quest to gain recognition and respect for ARMC and, more importantly, themselves, both men plotted to contain any negative publicity about the hospital.  Employees who question practices or report misconduct are themselves subjected to threats of discipline, using the loss of  medical licenses due to phony accusations by hospital management as  a means of control.

However, upon Uffer’s termination as County Administrative Officer in 2009, employees came forward with stories of botched surgeries and cover ups. But the hospital’s  Administrator, Patrick Petre, has not taken the position of “Let’s fix things, ” but rather, “Let’s find the whistle blowers.”  Everyone who they think has talked to us or to the newspapers has found themselves in trouble.

Even before Uffer’s departure, not all incidents could be kept quiet.  In September of last year, ARMC was fined by the state of California for two instances of patient abuse/malpractice. The first involved a behavioral health patient who was slapped by a psychiatric technician, who then attempted to drag the patient to his room, all while five other employees failed to intervene.  In the other incident, a sponge was left in a 26-year-old woman during surgery and had to be removed at a later date.

A few years ago a nurse by the name of Owen Jay Murphy, Jr., put a patient in a head lock and shoved her against a wall.  Since then there have been accusations of almost torture in the behavioral health unit where patients have been subjected to restraints for as long as four months based on fraudulent reports and charting by nurses who are afraid to deal with high-risk patients.  They were not bathed or fed properly and left for days in the same bloodied clothing.

I personally witnessed employees wrestling employees down and administering strong medication to patients the nursing staff simply did not want to deal with because they were asking to use the phone or were hungry or lonely.  Some staff is simply not properly trained or mentally incapable themselves of handling mental health patients.

But the Behavioral Health Unit is not the only hospital department where chilling examples examples of abuse and malpractice take place.  In one case a 13-year-old girl came in with a spinal cord problem.  The misdiagnosis resulted in her being a paraplegic.  A patient was admitted for a spinal fracture and was operated on for seven hours, but the surgeon never treated the spinal injury. In another case a man was rendered impotent when a surgeon did not properly insert screws into his spinal canal.  Yet another patient with a dislocated spine had to wait 36 hours for treatment.

In one case of medical malpractice the county of San Bernardino was ordered to pay $1.45 million to a decedent’s husband and five children after ARMC doctors failed to properly treat a women for continuing high blood pressure after the birth of her child.  The court ruled her symptoms of severe eclampsia should have been diagnosed.  She ultimately had a stroke and died.

The emergency room is another area of the hospital that is not being properly managed.  Rather than licensed doctors making the decisions of who should be admitted and who should not, that decision is being made by the hospital’s Chief Financial Officer, who also must answer to Gnanadev.  Much of the care is being handling by interns and nurse practitioners but then being billed to insurance companies as though licensed physicians provided the care.

ARMC’s trauma center was once known as “the place to go,” especially by law enforcement in the case of wounded officers.  It is now the place to avoid.  It is said that emergency personnel avoid bringing severe cases to ARMC when it is feasible to bring them other facilities.

And finally, in writing this article, I contacted current and former employees of ARMC.  They do not paint a picture of a doctor who practices his profession with concern for the care of patients but rather with concern for his bank account.  Several items were pointed out to me in his current contract.  I was told to play close attention to:

  1. The Services Gnanadev, as Chairman of Surgery, Supervises: Gnanadev is administratively responsible for all surgical services except anesthesia and orthopedics, which happens to be the two contracts that he is trying to cancel with the intent that he will have the new groups report to him as Chairman of Surgery (note not Medical Director) with the intent that if he is replaced as Medical Director he will still be in charge of ALL surgical services.
  2. The section which mentions that his corporation will supply the Chair of Surgery (which is him and all the other personnel mentioned in this section): In other words he hires them and pays them as well as doing all their billing while keeping ten percent of the monies collected.  Therefore as Chair of Surgery and Medical Director he has the sole responsibility of supervising physician whom he hired and pays.  Specifically these are: General Surgery, Otolaryngology (Ears, Nose  and Throat Surgery), Burn Surgery, Oral Surgery, Neurological Surgery, Plastic Surgery, Opthalmalogic Surgery and Transplant Surgery.

Here is a copy of Dr. Dev’s contract:  Dev’s Contract

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