Kaiser Turned a Blind Eye to Assaults, Patients Claim

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (CN) – The lawyer representing a class of patients who say a doctor sexually assaulted them during procedures said Tuesday the medical center where the doctor worked gave “short shrift” to its patients by not punishing the doctor when it had the chance.

The class action, filed last week in Prince George’s County Circuit Court, claims Dr. Bryan Williams groped and molested women for at least two years while working at the Kensington Medical Center and Largo Medical Center, both of which are operated by Kaiser Permanente.

“Had Kaiser intervened, many of these sexual assaults would have been prevented,” John Harnishfeger, the attorney who represents the class, told Courthouse News.

Williams, a pain management specialist, allegedly disguised the assaults as legitimate examinations meant to find the source of the pain about which his patients complained, but multiple women recognized the exams were inappropriate and reported them to Kaiser Permanente.

“Dr. Williams was not only assaulting women by inappropriately touching them but he was also providing his own cover-up as he went about it,” Harnishfeger said.

Harnishfeger said he is aware of more than a dozen women who have come forward with similar claims against Williams, possibly dating back to 2012. Kaiser Permanente received a formal complaint about Williams’ exams in September 2013, but did not immediately take any action, according to the 32-page complaint filed on Aug. 3.

It wasn’t until January 2014 that Kaiser Permanente discussed the allegations with Williams, when it required him to go to a seminar and have a chaperone present when he examined female patients. But the health care provider never enforced the chaperone rule or confirmed that he completed the seminar, according to the complaint.

“From our investigation of the case, it is clear that Kaiser exalted a commitment to the status quo over patient safety,” Harnishfeger said.

In a statement, Kaiser Permanente said it has “no tolerance” for the actions Williams allegedly committed.

“The safety of our patients is our highest priority, and we have no tolerance for behavior that puts our patients at risk,” the statement said. “We take allegations of misconduct very seriously and we take action to protect our patients. In this case, we terminated the physician and reported him to the physician-licensing boards in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. We have reached out to each person who has raised allegations against Dr. Williams and sought to address their concerns.”

Kaiser eventually fired Williams in October 2014, two years after the earliest complaint Harnishfeger said he is aware of and more than a year after receiving the first formal complaint against the doctor.

The potential class Harnishfeger represents includes not just women who claim Williams assaulted them, but anyone who saw Williams between Nov. 1, 2010, and Oct. 28, 2014, when he was fired.  Harnishfeger said even patients who do not claim they were assaulted are entitled to join the class because under Maryland law health care providers should give patients information they would want to know about their doctor.

The Maryland State Board of Physicians suspended Williams’ license on May 18, 2016, citing seven patients who said Williams sexually assaulted them during procedures. Four other cases have been filed against Williams and Kaiser Permanente in Prince George’s County Circuit Court, though three have been dismissed.

The class action lists Williams, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States and Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group as defendants and asks for more than $675,000 in damages.

Courthouse News could not reach Williams for comment on the suit.

 

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