Doc­tor al­leges psy­chi­atric abuse at Westch­ester Med

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS -

A doc­tor who trained for two years at the psy­chi­atric unit of Westch­ester Med­i­cal Cen­ter says in a law­suit that poor ado­les­cent pa­tients were rou­tinely pro­voked into act­ing out, then re­strained and drugged, ex­tend­ing their hos­pi­tal­iza­tion and Med­i­caid pay­ments.

Dr. Al­fred Roben­zadeh said su­per­vi­sors at Westch­ester Med­i­cal, in Val­halla, re­tal­i­ated against him when he tried to ad­dress what he says was chronic pa­tient abuse that in­creased the sever­ity of di­ag­noses, with usual twoweek in­pa­tient stays of­ten ex­tended days or weeks. He al­leges the prac­tice de­frauded Med­i­caid.

The hos­pi­tal pro­posed ter­mi­nat­ing Roben­zadeh’s train­ing this year. He said that’s sub­ject to ar­bi­tra­tion and that al­le­ga­tions against him of im­proper moon­light­ing and later vi­o­lat­ing pa­tient pri­vacy in de­fend­ing against those al­le­ga­tions were trumped up. His com­plaint named five doc­tors he says joined in re­tal­i­a­tion against him and the hos­pi­tal’s di­rec­tor of la­bor re­la­tions.

The Val­halla hos­pi­tal is op­er­ated by the Westch­ester Med­i­cal Cen­ter Health Network, which re­cently be­came the par­ent com­pany of Kingston-based HealthAl­liance of the Hud­son Val­ley. HealthAl­liance op­er­ates both hos­pi­tals in Kingston, as well as Mar­garetville Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal in Delaware County.

Roben­zadeh’s law­suit was filed Mon­day un­der fed­eral and New York whistle­blower laws. It seeks dam­ages, in­clud­ing pay­ment for lost em­ploy­ment and busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties, and lit­i­ga­tion costs. It asks the court to or­der the hos­pi­tal to cer­tify his com­ple­tion of four years of spe­cialty train­ing in psy­chi­a­try, say­ing the de­fen­dants have re­fused to do that.

Westch­ester Med­i­cal Cen­ter said the claims against staff are “with­out merit” and “of­fen­sive.” Roben­zadeh, a psy­chi­a­try trainee, raised claims only af­ter be­ing dis­ci­plined for cer­tain be­hav­ior hos­pi­tal spokesman An­drew LaGuardia said.

Roben­zadeh’s suit re­counted an in­stance while on duty, when the nurs­ing staff asked that he or­der re­straints on a dis­rup­tive pa­tient, which he de­clined to do with­out ac­tu­ally see­ing the teen first. He said that he wit­nessed staff “en­croach­ing on the in­pa­tient’s space and us­ing provoca­tive and threat­en­ing lan­guage and tone,” es­ca­lat­ing the ag­i­ta­tion, and that he in­stead talked to and calmed the youth, mak­ing re­straints un­nec­es­sary.

“The ex­ces­sive use of force re­sulted in ex­tended, un­rea­son­able and un­nec­es­sary in­pa­tient treat­ment days, for which the hos­pi­tal is re­im­bursed by Med­i­caid,” the law­suit said. “Rather than us­ing de-es­ca­la­tion tech­niques that would not re­quire the ad­min­is­tra­tion of chem­i­cal or phys­i­cal re­straints, the nurs­ing staff’s first and pre­ferred re­sponse to the pro­voked be­hav­ior was to seek an or­der from a physi­cian for the ad­min­is­tra­tion of a chem­i­cal or phys­i­cal re­straint to se­date the pa­tient.”

Roben­zadeh said that he pro­posed study­ing in­pa­tient met­rics to de­ter­mine why sta­ble pa­tients were hav­ing in­ci­dents shortly be­fore sched­uled dis­charges and whether it was from pol­icy and prac­tice. In­stead, he said, he was “marginal­ized,” stymied in at­tempts to moon­light as other grad­u­ate trainees did, given more hos­pi­tal pa­tients than they had, and ul­ti­mately sus­pended and ter­mi­nated from the fel­low­ship pro­gram.

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