Nasty Fight in California Hospital District

     VISALIA, Calif. (CN) – The multiethnic medical staff of a Central Valley hospital in California claims in court that the chairwoman of the board defamed them as terrorists and said, “They should all be hanged.”
     The Medical Executive Committee of the Tulare Regional Medical Center Medical Staff and Dr. Anil Patel sued Sherrie Bell, chairwoman of the Tulare Local Healthcare District, in Tulare County Court.
     Patel, chief of medical staff and chairman of the Medical Executive Committee, says in the lawsuit that Bell has been locked in a power struggle with the medical staff for several years.
     In 2014, the 11 members of the Medical Executive Committee included doctors who are ethnically Indian, Ethiopian, Korean, Burmese, Filipino, Pakistani, Chilean, Chinese and Hispanic.
     In a Dec. 30, 2014 lawsuit against the Medical Executive Committee, Patel and other doctors, signed by Bell, she claims that Patel threatened her with violence during a June 2014 meeting.
     “Specifically, Dr. Patel threatened physical harm and violence to Mrs. Bell, and described ‘dragging her outside by her hair and smashing her head against the ground,'” according to that lawsuit. Bell said she was “concerned for her safety,” and reported it to police. She sought writ of mandamus ordering mediation.
     In the new lawsuit, Patel says he did not know about Bell’s accusation until December, when he got a letter notifying the committee about her statements.
     He says the accusations are false and defamatory.
     The Medical Executive Committee also claims Bell has publicly accused them of turning away patients and refusing to recognize Patel’s status as chief of staff.
     Bell could not be reached for comment.
     The plaintiffs seek punitive damages for defamation.
     They are represented by Chad Snyder with Doerksen Taylor, of Fresno, who declined to comment on the case.
     In its own lawsuit, the health care district is represented by Leonard Herr with Dooley, Herr, Pedersen, & Berglund Bailey, who did not return requests for comment.
     Tulare, pop. 61,000, in the middle of California’s Central Valley, is a poor, minority-majority farm town. Its median household income of $41,985 is 30 percent below the statewide median of $60,190, according to city-data.com, and its median house or condo value of $154,991 is 58 percent below the statewide median of $373,100.
     Thirty-one percent of Tulare’s population is white. Sixty percent are Hispanic.

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