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Doctor accused by medical board will give up license

Dr. Ngoc Le Tuyen, of Fountain Valley, is accused of being incompetent and "grossly negligent" in his treatment of a patient at a Norwalk psychiatric facility who later died.

February 06, 2014|By Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times

SAN FRANCISCO — More than four years after a 52-year-old psychiatric patient was left with a broken neck for five hours on the floor of her room at Metropolitan State Hospital, the physician responsible for her care has agreed to give up his license, according to the state medical board.

Dr. Ngoc Le Tuyen, of Fountain Valley, who goes by Tuyen Le, agreed to surrender his license rather than fight an accusation filed last summer by the board. It alleges that Le was incompetent, unprofessional and "grossly negligent" in his treatment of Diane Rodrigues at the Norwalk psychiatric facility, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Rodrigues was paralyzed by the fracture and died six months later of related respiratory complications at another facility.

The Medical Board of California also accused Le of similar failings in the treatment of Metropolitan patient David Gibson, 56, who suffered an acute abdominal emergency and died in late January 2010, two months after Rodrigues' injury. (The accusation refers to the patients by initials only, but The Times confirmed their identities.)

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Rodrigues was a former kindergarten teacher who suffered from schizophrenia and often harmed herself during bouts of psychosis. She had been singing, praying and hurling herself from her bed before her injury.

Her case triggered an internal hospital investigation detailed by The Times in May 2012 that spread blame among a dozen staff members, any of whom could have summoned paramedics to help her more promptly.

According to the medical board accusation, made public late Tuesday, Le failed to place Rodrigues in a hard neck collar, immediately order a CT scan, do a proper neurological check, begin intravenous fluids or transfer her immediately by an ambulance with advanced lifesaving certification to a trauma center.

Reached by phone, Le, 72, said he had worked at Metropolitan for 30 years with "no problems" until the cases in question. He declined to discuss them in detail, but said, "It was not only my fault. There were other people involved."

Le retired from the hospital in April 2010, according to state records. He said he has not worked since.

For its story in 2012, The Times obtained six versions of the hospital's internal investigation of Rodrigues' case, which detailed serious lapses in treatment at the height of a court-supervised effort to improve care in the state's psychiatric hospitals. That federal effort has concluded.

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