Mitch Katz, MD,
Alleges Ignorance and Racism;
Then Plays Tit-for-Tat Game

Dr. Katz assertion in the Chronicle that critics of his admission policy changes were “prejudiced,” and were stigmatizing and victimizing African Americans and people with HIV/AIDS.  While Katz opined to the Chronicle that “I'm just sad about the victimization part,” no such victimization has occurred, other than in his own mind.

But the Chronicle report was greatly toned down.

What Dr. Katz really said was that critics of his admission policy change were “racist” and “ignorant.”  Despite the Chronicle reporter’s offer to let Dr. Katz retract his inflammatory statements, he reportedly refused to do so.  Reportedly, only the intervention of a key Laguna Honda Hospital employee convinced Dr. Katz to drop his allegations of racism and ignorance.  Without this employee’s involvement, Dr. Katz would not have relented.

Astoundingly, although the LHH Medical Staff and others had called for an apology from Dr. Katz, he temporarily played the tit-for-tat game.  First, he had called for a “cooling off period,” when what he should have been doing was issuing an immediate apology.  Delaying an apology, to let impassioned feelings cool off — as any parent with children knows — only leads to even further misunderstandings and unnecessarily prolonged hurt feelings.  Ostensibly, there is (or was) to have been a mediated session involving LHH human resources personnel in which Dr. Katz would meet with the Medical Staff.  What he needed to do, however, was to apologize to all LHH employees, not just to the Medical Staff, in an employee Town Hall meeting, no strings attached.

Second, Katz, in return, reportedly expected to receive an apology before he was willing to extend his own one in return.  It seems he is, and, was greatly annoyed that critics of his management style and critics of his unilateral change to the LHH admission policy — who were and are wholly frustrated by Katz’s lack of collaborative engagement of his own employees at LHH — were even remotely involved in media stories about the various problems facing Laguna Honda Hospital.  It seems that the negative media publicity about LHH describing events occurring in the facility is Dr. Katz’s chief concern, as if the public does not have a right to know what is going on at LHH.  (This bears repeating: Dr. Katz’s chief concern appears to be over “bad publicity,” not adverse conditions facing LHH residents or his own staff at LHH.)  This is tantamount to censorship, as Dr. Ulrich might attest.  Ulrich, a former doctor at Laguna Honda Hospital, as readers may recall, is settling a First Amendment rights case against the City that occurred under Dr. Katz’s watch as Director of Public Health.  The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to approve during the first week of February 2005 that the City will have to fork out $1.5 million to Ulrich in a negotiated settlement (plus possibly undisclosed legal fees to Ulrich’s attorneys), which was reduced from the $6 million jury award regarding Ulrich’s improper firing by the City.

Katz’s tit-for-tat delaying tactic, with its between-the-lines message, appears to be: “ Keep unsavory stories out of the press, and Dr. Katz will apologize to you; if not, cool your heels at Dr. Katz’s office door.  Then, wait to see if you get an apology from him in writing, whether or not you are using First Amendment right protections.”

This is Wizard of Oz-land absurdity at its worst.  In response to a CAL-OSHA citation over patient-on-staff assaults and staff-on-staff abuses, LHH is now developing and implementing a Workplace Violence Prevention plan that will include a zero-tolerance policy against violence in the workplace, which includes verbal abuse of one employee by another employee.  In order to gain buy-in and acceptance of the new zero-tolerance policy, LHH cannot have one standard for line staff and middle management, and a diametrically different policy for the highest managers within DPH.  Dr. Katz cannot be held to one standard and get off scott-free, while all other DPH employees at LHH are expected to be held to a stricter standard regarding verbal abuse.

Katz needs to issue an apology, with no strings attached, and he needs to do so quickly.  No other DPH employee would have received the preferential treatment Katz is receiving as director of the Department.  Any other employee would have had disciplinary proceedings filed against them, most likely on the spot.  A reasonable question is:  Why is Katz being held to a different accountability standard?

His unqualified apology should have been issued during the week that ended on Friday, January 28, since Katz’s remarks were both base, and baseless (i.e., groundless).

Any further delay issuing an apology would be both inexcusable and base.  Katz and Mayor Newsom both know this, since as a Department Head, Katz serves at the pleasure of the Mayor.   So does everybody else familiar with the facts.  To pretend otherwise in order to let Katz “save face” is insulting to all of LHH’s staff and other of his critics who are not LHH employees.

Would Mayor Newsom permit such baseless accusations from any of his other Department Heads?  Or is Mitch somehow special to Gavin?


Page Revised 2/5/05


Copyright (c) 2005 by Committee to Save LHH.  All rights reserved.  This work may not be reposted anywhere on the Web, or reprinted in any print media, without express written permission.  E-mail the
Committee to Save LHH.