Legacy Meridian Park Hit with Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

The only African American physician on staff contends another neurosurgeon used the N word and refused to shake his hand when he joined the staff in 2011.

An African American neurosurgeon at Legacy Meridian Park Hospital has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging racial discrimination.

Dr. Warren Roberts’ contends the other neurosurgeons at the hospital conspired against him, conducted a sham peer review process and sought to have him removed as a competitor.

While touring Meridian Park shortly after arriving in 2011, Roberts’ claims that Dr. Tim Keenan, another neurosurgeon, refused to shake his hand, and used the N word before walking away.

“That was the first sign of problems to come; subsequently that same surgeon refused to let me see patients in the emergency room and filed false complaints against me. Now they’re attempting to squeeze me to death. I’m the only African American doctor in the entire hospitals. Racism is certainly a big problem here.”

The peer review process used to evaluate him was a sham, Roberts’ says because those making complaints can be protected and are immune from prosecution. “They can target someone and have them removed without any accountability. There’s a double standard. If you’re outside the group and not in the in crowd, you can become a target which impacts your professional reputation and threatens your livelihood. Something needs to change because people can hide behind peer review and target innocent people. Absolute power makes people corrupt and get away with egregious behavior, which has a negative effect on patient care.

“Neurosurgeons have a competitive interest and want to control the referral of patients and control the care so they can have a monopoly over the area. When someone like me comes in, they become a target.”

Roberts is seeking $30 million in economic and non-economic damages, according to his attorney, Micah Fargey.

“The loss of future income is the driving force of this number based on the significant damage to Dr. Roberts' practice, measured from how it was going prior to the defendants' wrongdoing and its measurable decline since,” he said.

“We are also seeking an injunction restoring Dr. Roberts' privileges and rights at Legacy and a declaration that certain statutes have been violated. The latter is important so Dr. Roberts can let the public - and other hospitals - know that the revocation of his privileges had nothing to do with his substantial skill as a surgeon.”

Although his lawsuit may not be resolved for another year, the court has already given his attorney access to the peer review documents from the hospital, which he calls a major victory. “We’ll now be able to see what’s going on behind closed doors.”

Legacy officials refused to comment on the lawsuit.

Safety violations

The problems faced by Roberts flared up after he reported safety violations in the operating room to hospital CEO Allyson Anderson.

He had found rusty instruments in the operating room, crawling flying insects, sterility issues with setup and prep, along with problem with fluoroscopy equipment and headlight illumination.

Roberts filed a complaint with The Joint Commission, which confirmed those violations, and the hospital has had to hire a sterile core manager to work in the operating room, he says. “They got in trouble after I reported them, and I suffered as a result; they’ve restricted my privileges and are trying to squeeze me out of practice; it’s classic whistleblower retaliation.”

The other neurosurgeons cited in this lawsuit include Drs. Francisco X. Soldevilla, Robert L. Tatsui, Andrew B. Cramer, David Nazemi, Brent Evetts, Peter Mersereau, Lewis Low and Timothy L. Keenan as well as Northwest Neurosurgical Associates and Pacific Spine Specialists. Diane can be reached at [email protected].

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