Thursday, January 17, 2002

Pediatric cancer specialist
sues over firing by
Kapiolani hospital

By Debra Barayuga

A physician who gave up a lucrative private practice for a full-time position at Kapiolani Medical Center has sued the hospital, Hawaii Pacific Health and Kapiolani Medical Specialists, alleging she was wrongfully terminated.

Dr. Kelley Woodruff, who joined Kapiolani as a pediatric hematology/oncology specialist, contends she was forced out based on unfounded allegations of professional misconduct and Medicaid fraud, was never notified of the charges against her and was never given a hearing before being fired, according to her lawsuit. She also alleges her firing was in retaliation for raising concerns about the hospital failing to bill for the services of a nurse practitioner.

The suit said the hospital's actions have resulted in its securing a monopoly on the pediatric hematology/oncology specialty, preventing Woodruff from competing with Kapiolani and depriving pediatric cancer and blood disorder patients of her expertise.

"They took her practice, and now they're showing her the door," said Woodruff's attorney, Rafael Del Castillo.

When Woodruff accepted an offer to work for Kapiolani Medical Specialists -- a multispecialty medical group -- in August 1997, she also had transferred the successful medical practice and referral network she and Dr. Robert Wilkinson had built in the 1990s, the suit said.

Most pediatricians had been referring their pediatric cancer patients to them by 1997, while Kapiolani Medical Center was getting no referrals.

Both doctors had clinical privileges at Kapiolani and admitted most all their patients there.

Both had gone to work for Kapiolani Medical Specialists, lured by the vision portrayed that the proposed pediatric hematology/oncology division would provide better care to their patients, the suit said.

The complaint asks the courts for relief including ordering Kapiolani to dismantle its hematology/oncology division and restore Woodruff's practice and referral network.

Woodruff was terminated Jan. 8 but continues to have staff privileges at Kapiolani and sees patients, Del Castillo said.

Pat Oda, spokeswoman for Kapiolani Medical Center, declined comment because the issue is before the courts.

"Our intention is to respond to the allegations through the court process," she said.

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