Calif. prison doc made $777,000 for not treating patients

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Using state records, Jack Dolan of the Los Angeles Times found that one of the most highly paid state employees in California is a doctor who has not been allowed to treat patients in six years.

Dr. Jeffrey Rohlfing is a prison surgeon who has a history that includes a psychiatric crisis, revocation of his clinical privileges after a patient died and allegations of substandard care that led to his being fired.

While appealing his termination, he has “been relegated to reviewing paper medical histories, what prison doctors call ‘mailroom’ duty.”

Last year, Rohlfing made $777,423 – that’s his base pay of $235,740 plus back pay for two years when he didn’t work while he successfully appealed his termination.

Rohlfing isn’t the only doctor in California’s cash-strapped prisons earning big money to shuffle paper. Dozens have been relegated to the chore in recent years, according to Kincaid, who said it’s the standard assignment given to physicians when questions arise about their clinical ability. Some eventually return to treating patients, some quit and others are ultimately fired, she added.

Dolan writes that California’s prison system has a history of employing doctors with problems. In 2006, judges said that contributed to the “fact that a prisoner died ‘needlessly’ every six to seven days in a state lockup.”

Hat tip to @wheisel, who has tips from this investigation.

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