San Francisco settles lawsuit for $750K, restores reputation of former Laguna Honda doctor 

click to enlarge Derek Kerr called attention to impropriety at Laguna Honda Hospital. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Derek Kerr called attention to impropriety at Laguna Honda Hospital.

Laguna Honda Hospital won’t be able to forget Derek Kerr — ever.

In addition to a $750,000 cash payout, the former hospice physician — whose 21 years of service at The City’s long-term care hospital ended with a layoff after he filed whistle-blower complaints alleging misuse of a patient gift fund — will be honored with a plaque commemorating his service, to be installed at the hospital. In addition, he’ll be publicly lauded by the same officials who allegedly retaliated against him.

The agreement was set in a settlement approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

The officials alleged to have orchestrated his ouster in response to speaking up, including hospital executive administrator Mivic Hirose, who must also receive an hour’s worth of training on whistle-blowing and First Amendment rights.

Kerr said he feels vindicated by the settlement and  noted that his professional reputation has been restored thanks to the settlement.

“But I don’t feel joyful,” he said.

“They should never have driven me out, and I should never have had to sue The City. It’s a lose-lose.”

Kerr and fellow physician Maria Rivero lost their jobs in the hospital’s hospice unit in 2010 after they filed complaints alleging that donations to the patient gift fund were instead spent on hiring staff for a hospital-connected nonprofit, in a possible conflict of interest, and on a capital project. Kerr received his layoff notice one day after The City’s Ethics Commission received his complaint.

He filed a lawsuit in 2010. In an interview Tuesday, Deborah Kochan, Kerr’s attorney, said the nonmonetary terms of the settlement are “above and beyond” typical settlements.

Whistle-blower complaints are supposed to be investigated by The City’s Ethics Commission, but like Kerr and Rivero, other city whistle-blowers have gone to the courts to resolve their cases.

A pair of emergency dispatchers received a $762,000 settlement in summer 2012 after they claimed retaliation following complaints about a lax working environment.

None of the officials alleged in the lawsuit to have orchestrated Kerr’s ouster lost their jobs or were ?otherwise disciplined.
“That sends a message,” said Kerr, who says his medical practice is over; he is instead dedicating his time to advocating for other whistle-blowers. “You can destroy someone’s career and The City will protect you.”

“There’s a problem, a glitch somewhere,” he said, “if whistle-blowers can be retaliated against and ?complaints are buried.”

Neither the Department of Public Health, which oversees Laguna Honda Hospital, nor the City Attorney’s Office, which negotiated the settlement, responded to requests for comment Tuesday.

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
Pin It

More by Chris Roberts

Tuesday, Oct 6, 2015


Most Popular Stories

© 2015 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation