Health

Friday, Dec 13 2013 09:00 PM

Medical Board accuses former Kaiser doc of gross negligence

BY RACHEL COOK Californian staff writer rcook@bakersfield.com

The Medical Board of California has accused a former Kaiser Permanente doctor of gross negligence in her treatment of a newborn at a Bakersfield hospital last year.

The state Attorney General's office filed the accusation against Dr. Nneamaka Mbagwu on Nov. 27 on behalf of the Medical Board. It alleges that Mbagwu left San Joaquin Community Hospital without telling nurses that she had asked another doctor to cover for her and was unreachable for several hours.

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While she was gone, the baby's condition deteriorated and later he had to be taken to a Los Angeles hospital for further treatment, the accusation said.

Attempts to contact Mbagwu on Thursday and Friday were unsuccessful. Reached by phone Thursday, a man who identified Mbagwu as his wife said he could not contact her because her cell phone was not good and that he did not have her attorney's phone number.

A representative from Kaiser Permanente Kern County confirmed that Mbagwu worked for Kaiser but said that she resigned "shortly after the events described."

"We reported the incident to the Medical Board of California and have been cooperating fully with their investigation," wrote Leslie Golich, director of public affairs and brand communications for Kaiser Permanente Kern County, in an email Friday.

The baby, a boy identified only by the initials C.G.V. in the accusation, was born by cesarean section on the night of April 16, 2012, and was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit for trouble breathing, the accusation said.

Dr. Mbagwu examined the baby the next morning at 11 a.m. The baby was intubated at 1:20 p.m. and put on a ventilator. A chest X-ray of the newborn was received about 20 minutes later and a nurse called Mbagwu to review the X-ray and update the infant's parents, the accusation said.

But Mbagwu had left the hospital about 10 minutes earlier to pick up her child from day care and get lunch and did not return until 5 p.m., according to the accusation. Nurses reported that they tried to reach Mbagwu and that she did not return phone messages, according to the document.

Mbagwu asked another neonatologist, identified only as Dr. Patel in the accusation, to look at the X-ray and cover the baby for her, but the accusation claims that Mbagwu didn't tell nurses that another doctor was covering for her while she was gone.

Patel stated that he was asked to look at the chest X-ray but not to evaluate the child at the hospital, the accusation said. He looked at the X-ray at his office, which was outside the hospital.

Patel checked on the baby at about 3 p.m. The nurses contacted him because they couldn't reach Mbagwu "concerning the deteriorating condition of (the infant)." Other procedures were performed on the infant and an echocardiogram showed he was suffering from pulmonary hypertension.

The baby was admitted to a Kaiser facility in Los Angeles later that day, where he was treated for severe pulmonary hypertension and severe hypoxemic respiratory failure, according to the accusation.

On April 20, a scan showed "multiple areas" of injury to his brain, the accusation said. The scan report notes said the injury was "likely due" to issues that happened on the day the baby was born, the accusation said.

The infant was sent home on May 2.

The Medical Board claims that Mbagwu's treatment of the baby was grossly negligent because "the standard of care requires that timely care be provided to (the infant), or arranging for another physician to provide timely care." The accusation also charges the doctor with incompetence.

According to the Medical Board's website, Mbagwu graduated from the University of Lagos College of Medicine in Nigeria in 1987. Her license was issued in 1994 and is set to expire in June 2014.

According to The Californian's archives, Kaiser Permanente Kern County announced in 2000 that Mbagwu had joined its Ming Medical Offices. She had privileges at San Joaquin Community Hospital from August 2008 to May 2012 when she resigned from the hospital's medical staff, hospital spokesman Jimmy Phillips wrote in an email.

The Medical Board is seeking to revoke or suspend Mbagwu's license, require her to pay for the cost of her probation monitoring if she is put on probation, and forbid her from supervising physician assistants, the accusation said.

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