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Harbor-UCLA, former orthopedics chief part ways amid sexual misconduct allegations

The Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, is pictured. Harbor-UCLA confirmed this month that its former orthopedics chief, Dr. Louis Kwong – who has been under investigation for sexual misconduct – is no longer employed by the hospital. (Courtesy of Biochemistry2016/Wikimedia Commons)

By Anna Dai-Liu

March 23, 2024 8:19 p.m.

Former Harbor-UCLA Medical Center orthopedics chief Dr. Louis Kwong, who currently faces several allegations of sexual misconduct, is no longer employed by the hospital.

Chief Medical Officer Griselda Gutierrez informed orthopedics staff of Kwong’s departure March 13, though the hospital refused to clarify Thursday if it was voluntary or forced, the Los Angeles Daily News reported Friday. Kwong was placed on paid administrative leave in March 2022, but county policy required him to remain on payroll until investigations concluded, the LA Times reported in November.

Orthopedic surgeons Drs. Haleh Badkoobehi and Jennifer Hsu, as well as former director of emergency medicine Dr. Madonna Fernandez-Frackelton, filed two separate lawsuits against Harbor-UCLA in October. In the suits, the doctors alleged that Kwong – who has been at the center of complaints since as early as 2013 – committed sexual misconduct involving unconscious patients and carried a gun in the hospital, among various other complaints or incidents. According to the suits, the hospital ignored reported complaints about these actions for years.

A similar allegation was made earlier by former UCLA medical student Dr. Melani Cargle, who filed a lawsuit against UCLA Health and LA County, among others, in June. Cargle claimed that while working in Harbor-UCLA’s orthopedic surgery rotation in 2019, Kwong, her supervisor, made inappropriate sexual comments while performing surgery and carried a firearm around the center. However, Cargle said these complaints were ignored by the hospital, and the supervisor never faced consequences, according to the lawsuit.

[Related: Former UCLA medical student sues UCLA Health, LA County for discrimination]

The 570-bed Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, located in Torrance, California, is a teaching hospital independently operated by the LA County Department of Health Services. Many faculty hold joint appointments at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and have clinical duties at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, and UCLA medical students like Cargle may enter clinical internships or rotations at Harbor-UCLA.

The ongoing litigation surrounding Kwong has affected the hospital’s teaching duties as well. Emergency medicine residents submitted complaints in March 2022 to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education regarding the orthopedics department and hospital leadership at large, leading to the council placing Harbor-UCLA on “probationary accreditation status” in June of last year. This status requires it to notify all residents, fellows and potential applicants of the status and prevents it from applying for accreditation of additional programs.

Following the June demotion, Dr. Darrell W. Harrington, the hospital’s then-director of graduate medical education and a designated institutional official, resigned in December. The plaintiffs in the two October lawsuits alleged that hospital officials – including Harrington – repeatedly ignored their complaints about Kwong.

[Related: Harbor-UCLA Medical Center director resigns amid doctor’s misconduct litigation]

According to letters obtained by the Southern California News Group, LA County has so far substantiated an allegation of sexual harassment and allegations of gender discrimination and inappropriate conduct against Kwong. The county also found that hospital leadership did not report these violations of equity policies, which require supervisors and managers to report potential violations to the county – even if the person who files the complaint or report asks that no action be taken.

Harbor-UCLA did not respond in time to a request for comment.

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Anna Dai-Liu | Science and health editor
Dai-Liu is the 2023-2024 science and health editor and Copy staff member. She was previously a News staff writer and is currently a third-year neuroscience and comparative literature student.
Dai-Liu is the 2023-2024 science and health editor and Copy staff member. She was previously a News staff writer and is currently a third-year neuroscience and comparative literature student.
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