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Irrational, Delusional, Unfireable: Meet California's Highest-Paid State Employee

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NOW THIS IS HAPPENING
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"The highest-paid state employee in California last year, a prison surgeon who took home $777,423, has a history of mental illness, was fired once for alleged incompetence and has not been allowed to treat an inmate for six years because medical supervisors don't trust his clinical skills," writes .

But Dr. Jeffrey Rohlfing continues to work at the High Desert State Prison in Susanville, collecting $235,740 in base pay (The balance of the $777,423 was "back pay for more than two years when he did no work for the state while appealing his termination.")



"We want taxpayers to know we had no choice in this," Nancy Kincaid, a spokeswoman for the court-appointed receiver in charge of California's inmate healthcare, tells Dolan. "If you are ordered to bring somebody back to work, and you can't trust them with patients, you have to find something for them to do."

Dolan explains that "Rohlfing's difficulties date to at least 1996, when he suffered a psychiatric crisis while working at a hospital in Fresno, according to Medical Board of California records. After he engaged in 'bizarre, irrational and delusional communications,' co-workers called police. Rohlfing fled when they arrived, led a car chase through the streets and was caught at his house."

He continues:

Two involuntary 72-hour commitments to psychiatric wards followed. The medical board, which licenses all doctors in California, placed Rohlfing on probation for five years, the board's records show.

In August 2000, while still on probation, Rohlfing began working on a limited basis for High Desert State Prison in Lassen County in northeastern California. The state hired him full time in May 2003. Two years later, after the death of an inmate in his care, Rohlfing's clinical privileges were revoked, effectively removing him from the practice of medicine.

A review of Rohlfing's records found two cardiac cases in which his care was determined to be "significantly substandard." According to Dolan, "Rohlfing was put on paid leave for 18 months. In 2007, he was fired."

However, Rohlfing appealed -- and won. The state Personnel Board declared that, while Rohlfing's work "may not have been textbook perfect," they "did not amount to the inexcusable neglect of duty needed to fire a prison doctor."

A neglectful level of health care in California's prison system has been on the radar for quite some time. In 2004, Jennifer Warren, also of the LA Times, reported:

Documents obtained by The Times show that one in five prison doctors has been disciplined by the California Medical Board or sued for malpractice ­ -- a rate almost five times that found statewide.

Some physicians working behind bars have histories of criminal convictions, cocaine or alcohol addiction and a loss of privileges at hospitals, records show.

Then, surprise -- a certain Jeffrey Rohlfing makes his cameo, as a psychiatrist treating Rohlfing declares, "He cannot practice medicine safely."

So, seven years later, instead of practicing medicine, Rohlfing now files papers all day -- for $235,740 -- which his attorney Joseph Polockow says " is an attempt by prison officials to get him to quit."

"If you stick a doctor in a room for eight hours a day with no patients, you're making it very hard on him and trying to drive him away," he told Dolan.

Um...you think? Good work, counselor.


For an interesting look at how prisons have affected Susanville's economy, take a look at the clip below:

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