Indo-American Doctors File Discrimination Lawsuit Against Texas Hospital

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HOUSTON – Three Indian American cardiologists in Texas have filed a racial discrimination lawsuit in federal District Court in the Southern District of Texas charging the management of county-owned Citizens Medical Center in Victoria, Texas, with unlawfully barring them “from continuing their practice at the hospital.”

The doctors, Harish Chandna, Ajay Gaalla and Dakshesh Kumar Parikh, claim that the pattern of racial bias started in 2007 and culminated in their being excluded from practicing at the 344-bed hospital Feb. 17, 2010.

They filed a lawsuit against the hospital claiming significant monetary losses. A district judge subsequently granted them a temporary injunction, forcing Citizens Medical to allow them to be reinstated with all privileges at the hospital.

That decision was later overturned by an appellate court and the doctors are appealing that ruling to the U.S . Supreme Court. In the meantime, Citizens Medical is allowing them to practice there.

Chandna, Gaalla and Parikh are all board-certified cardiologists who, according to the Texas Medical Board, have been licensed in Te xas for periods ranging from 13 to 18 years. The lawsuit claims e-mails and memos written by administrators and doctors at Citizens Medical show a pattern of discrimination.

They include the following: “The Inidians [sic] are talking,” “[T]he Indians had been sending the hearts out of town,” “Another year with the Indians.” One communication called the two rival groups at the hospital “the Cowboys” and “the Indians.”

David P. Brown, chief executive of Citizens Medical, wrote in a 2007 memo to himself, according to the lawsuit, “I feel a sense of disgust but am more concerned with what this means to the future of the hospital as more of our Middle-Eastern-born physicians [sic] demand leadership roles and demand influence…[This] will change the entire complexion of the hospital and create a level of fear among our employees.

The dispute, according to the Texas Tribune, has divided Victoria’s medical community. Chandna, Gaalla and Parikh have practiced at CMC and neighboring DeTar Hospital for many years.

The attorney for the three Indian American doctors, Monte F. James of Jackson Walker LLP in Austin, Texas, told India-West that a recent court ruling has provided him access to hundreds of hospital e-mails and other communications that were erased but later found on a backup system.

He said that he knows that there are a “large number of hits of the words ‘Indians’ and ‘Cowboys’ in the e-mails,” but he had not seen the e-mails by press deadline.

“The level of discrimination in this case is staggering and very troubling,” James said, adding that it was pervasive and “open all the way from the CEO down.” James said patients of the doctors would arrive at the hospital, which wouldn’t even “call them and let them know” the patients had arrived.

There is no evidence that the three Indian American doctors are anything but “very good doctors,” the attorney added. The attorney for the hospital, Daniel M. McClure of Fulbright & Jaworski, refused to return a call for comment.

Rex L. Easley Jr., an attorney for another doctor who is a defendant in the lawsuit, told the Texas Tribune that “from my review of the evidence, the common denominator in the rough aspects of the operation of the hospital were the three plaintiffs.”

But the three Indian American cardiologists claim they were only raising concerns about inappropriate procedures and poor patient outcomes, not being “disruptive.”

James did not make any of the three plaintiffs available for comment, but Chandna told the Tribune, “We’ve been here for 15 years. We work 24-7. Patients like us. I don’t see any other thing than that my complexion is different.”

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