Dr. Katz Issues an Apology;
But Nobody Believed It
(Except, Perhaps, 12 or So
“Hospital Administrators”)

Dr. Katz sent an incomplete, half-empty/half-full apology on January 31, 2005, but only to a handful of people he had deeply offended.

Analysis of Katz’ So-Called “Apology”

Within minutes of its arrival in the morning, his apology was widely circulated throughout LHH and was widely viewed as a “non-apology,” even before LHH Executive Administrator John Kanaley forwarded it mid-afternoon by e-mail (to only LHH’s staff who have e-mail accounts, and not a harcopy in interoffice mail to those who don’t) without further comment, assuming Katz’s letter would speak for itself.   Boy, did it ever!

First, Katz mistakenly addressed his apology only to the LHH’ “Executive Team” and “Medical Staff,” thereby excluding the Nursing staff; Rehabilitation staff; and social worker’s, activity therapists, and all other ancillary staff, many of whom had (rightly) been deeply offended by his remarks in the Chronicle, as were many of LHH’s residents who were aware of his spurious allegations.  Also excluded were members of the community who Katz brushes off as mere “critics” of many of his decisions, including his unilateral admissions policy change made in March 2004.  

Those critics include at least 300 DPH employees who signed a “vote of no confidence petition” (which petition has languished somewhere between Supervisor Dufty’s and Supervisor Ammiano’s office for months without any meaningful action) regarding DPH’s senior management who refuse to collaboratively listen to middle management and line staff concerns about the operations of the Department of Public Health, and a separate petiton signed by 450 LHH employees objecting to Dr. Katz’s dismissal of former LHH Executive Administrator Larry Funk. While Katz continues to wrongly assert in the Chronicle article that it is a “small number” of critics opposing his policies, in truth 300 to 450 DPH employees can hardly be considered a “small number” of people, and they certainly cannot be called “disgrunted employees.”  Then there are legions of non-DPH employees who are also vocally critical of Dr. Katz’s performance as Director of Public Health who must be added in to the “small number of critics” he wrongly counts, possibly by way of being mathematically challenged.  Katz also ignores the growing number of AIDS professionals who are beginning to openly question the veractiy of his AIDS statistics.

Brazenly, his first paragraph claims that he knows better than everyone else, asserting that it is “untrue” that the entire LHH staff could possibly have interpreted his comments as pertaining to them.  Well, it may not have been the “entire” staff, but he has no inkling of how widespread that interpretation had been at the time the Chronicle article first appeared.

Katz then wades through his next two paragraphs describing events leading up to the Chronicle story’s appearance.  He asserts that “we have enough room to admit the frail elderly,” because the short-stay transferees are being successfully being reintegrated into the community, confounding data regarding the number of short-term care admissions with actual proof that the short-stay admission are actually being expeditiously discharged.  Katz’s “critics” have long contended that the frail elderly and disabled are unable to gain admission, but Katz provides not one scrap of evidence to support the fact that the short-term care patients are actually being discharged fast enough in order to make room for the long-term care beds needed by the frail elderly. His critics argue, rightly, that the converse is occurring, and the frail elderly are being differentially displaced to make room for more and more short-stay patients, not long-term care patients.

Katz dismisses his critics’ concerns as a “non-story,” when in fact the story continues to be of grave concern to many people, with or without his non-apology.

Katz then states in paragraph four that he believed — and apparently continues to believe — his initial allegations of prejudice against African Americans and people with AIDS.  Indeed, he simply repeats verbatim nearly all of his baseless accusations, and then some.  Several LHH staff observed that Katz ignores the teachings of both queen-of-etiquette Emily Post and most parents who actually teach their children that the first rule of an apology is:  Never, ever, repeat orally or in writing while apologizing the very statements that had initially inflamed passions and had led to hurt feelings as you had first stated.  Ever.  It is completely inappropriate to re-allege the very things you are subsequently trying to apologize for.  If you do so, you will not be believed.  Ever.

Notably, also in paragraph four, Katz claims his initial allegations (that he then repeated) were “informed by” what we are to believe was a mis-portrayal of an AIDS patient with severe dementia.  Katz tosses double-quote marks around the term ‘sexual predator’ that he felt was unfairly ascribed to an AIDS patient whose major problem, according to Katz, was about falling, denying that the patient posed any risk to the community of residents in LHH.  In his apology, Katz opines that it hurt him personally very much that an AIDS patient would be so portrayed, however truthfully.  What Katz either doesn’t know, refuses to admit, or has suspended disbelief about, is that the patient he was referring to was and is listed in the Megan’s Law database on the Internet as being a registered sex offender.  Once your name appears in the Megan’s Law registry, the public has a right to know about it, not have it hidden or minimized.

LHH residents and the neighborhoods surrounding LHH have the same rights as all citizens to be informed when someone listed in the Megan’s Law database moves into their neighborhoods; this is a matter of public record the community is entitled to be informed of, or Megan's Law would never have been passed by the California legislature.

What Katz sought to do in his non-apology letter was to minimize valid clinical concerns about sex offenders to make an (invalid) point.  Katz implied that any doctors who may have raised concerns about violence or potentially predatory behavior were somehow “prejudiced.”  Katz does not share that in the past, sexual predators at LHH have simply been moved from one ward to another (sometimes a single ward away), hoping a “geographic” re-location might resolve incidents of patient-on-patient sexual abuse.  Yeah, right; just like priests have been moved from one parish to another, hoping that priest-on-children sexual abuse would simply “go away” via a geographic relocation.

What Katz would have us believe in his apology letter appears to be that the Director of Public Health’s perception of being “personally hurt” is somehow far more important than the fact that other LHH residents could have actually been hurt.  More Alice-in-Wonderland logic.

Nearing the end of his “apology” letter, Katz begs to the tiny subset of people he was apologizing to that it would be “useful” to focus on communicating without being hurtful.  Jeesh!  What about focusing on the patients who may have potentially been hurt had this patient actually gone postal?

Katz then closes by saying he is “absolutely committed to” obtaining further “behavioral health” [read: “mental health”] resources needed to care for all LHH patients, as if LHH were a mental health facility.  It is not, but he appears to be insinuating that LHH’s new “mission” will be all about behavioral health programs.  He also indicates LHH’s new admission policy and mission statement was a collaborative decision that was “shared” by all LHH staff to implement a mental health programming focus at LHH.

It was not a “shared” decision.  It was a nearly-unilateral decision foisted on LHH’s staff.  And Katz brazenly uses his so-called “apology” to further ram down everyone’s throat that he intends to use LHH as a venue to provide services formerly provided at the Mental Health Rehabilitation Facility, now re-named the San Francisco Behavioral Health Center.

His was no apology.  It was a half-baked attempt to unilaterally exert his authority to change LHH’s mission from a long-term care facility for the frail elderly and disabled into some other type of facility.  Period.

A Sampling of LHH Staff Members’ Perspectives Regarding Katz’s “Apology”

  1. A Chinese American Clinician: “First we get a slap in the face [referring to the Chronicle story], then we get a kick in the pants [Katz’s apology letter].  What’s he trying to say?”
  2. A 30-Plus Year Clinician: “I had to read his letter several times; I still don't know what Katz was trying to say.”
  3. A Senior Administrative Employee: “It’s complete B.S., as usual from Mitch.”
  4. Another Clinician: “I don't believe it.  He’s not sorry; he’s only sorry he said i6 to the press.  It’s not an apology at all.”
  5. A Gay Male Nurse:  “He said a lot of pretty words. He likes to sidestep [real issues].”
  6. An MD: “It’s a pseudo-apology, not a real apology.”

There were many other staff comments, most of them not repeatable in polite company.  And it appears that if anyone fell hook-line-and-sinker for Katz’s non-apology, it is only LHH’s “Hospital Administrators,” not the Medical Staff, Nursing Staff, and other skilled ancillary clinicians, and certainly not the many “line staff” who remain completely annoyed they were unworthy of Katz being able to reach down to those he most offended.



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