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Hospital officials offer no comment about racism claims (Document)

By BY MELISSA CROWE AND KELDY ORTIZ - MCROWE@VICAD.COM and KORTIZ@VICAD.COM
Nov. 29, 2012 at 5:29 a.m.
Updated Nov. 30, 2012 at 5:30 a.m.

David Brown

More than 200 members of a Houston ethnic group want Citizens Medical Center's CEO dismissed for racial discrimination.

The letter, signed by members of the Indo-American Community of Greater Houston, stems from a nearly three-year lawsuit involving three cardiologists and hospital leadership.

The lawsuit details a series of inter-departmental emails in which CEO David Brown referred to the cardiologists - Drs. Ajay Gaalla, Harish Chandna and Dakshesh Parikh - as "Indians" and leadership as "cowboys." The emails also include references to a plan for "getting the Indians off the reservation."

The letter calls for the immediate removal of individuals who "openly misused their official position and authority" and who "clearly demonstrated hatred" toward Indians, people of Indian origin and the Indo-American community. The group also wants a standard of conduct taken up that addresses racism and a written, formal apology along with some assurance that "degrading and spiteful" behavior will stop.

Brown said "we deny unequivocally" that there was any degrading behavior but would not elaborate.

"I can't comment on any active lawsuits," Brown said.

Citizens Medical Center's attorney, Kevin Cullen, of the Victoria law firm Cullen, Carsner, Seerden and Cullen, said he would not comment about the Indo-American group's requests.

"There are no issues," he said. "We try our lawsuits not in a newspaper."

However, the letter, dated Nov. 15, said the conduct and behavior that Brown displayed is "reprehensible and inexcusable."

In February 2010, Citizens filed a resolution to allow only cardiologists with contracts at the hospital to exercise clinical privileges in the cardiology department or part of the hospital's heart program.

Cardiologists fought back days later with a lawsuit stating they were being barred from practicing based not on their merit and expertise, but because of economical and racial factors.

According to court documents, Citizens' decision not only affected doctors, but also their patients, who were denied the right to see the physician of their choice.

County Judge Don Pozzi acknowledged that he received the letter, which was also sent to Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. John Cornyn, Sen.-elect Ted Cruz and 12 other federal, state and local officials.

"You can take those comments for what it's worth," Pozzi said.

He said he has seen most of the information.

"They (the Houston group and the doctors) have a right to say whatever they wish," he said. "I don't have any comment regarding anything else."

Because the litigation is ongoing, he would not comment further.

"It is what it is," he said.

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