Three top administrators of the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital are leaving their posts in the wake of accreditation problems, university officials confirmed Tuesday.
Dr. Don A. Rockwell, the hospital director, announced that he will step down as of June 1. Also leaving around that time will be Dr. Gary Tischler, the institute’s director and head of psychiatry, and Dr. Joel Yager, vice chair for education at the hospital.
Rockwell, speaking for the three, said the resignations were unconnected to investigations that followed the apparent suicide of a hospital patient last year and resulted in a conditional accreditation by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.
The institute has been under fire since last year, when UCLA psychiatrists were reprimanded by the National Institutes of Health for failing to get proper consent from patients enrolled in a clinical trial for a new anti-schizophrenia drug. Some of the patients in the clinical trial experienced severe reactions, including hallucinations and paranoia, when they were taken off the drug.
Conditional accreditations, which amount to probation, are given to only 1% of the hospitals surveyed by the watchdog agency. The Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital has long had a reputation as one of the nation’s finest psychiatric institutions.
Patient rights advocates and the suicide victim’s father told reporters Tuesday that they believe there is a connection between the conditional accreditation and the three departures. But UCLA officials denied any such link.
Rockwell, in citing his reasons for stepping down, was backed up by UCLA Provost Gerald S. Levey, who called any connection between the resignations and the accreditation problems “a coincidence.”
Levey said that when he became provost eight months ago he was told that Rockwell was planning to leave. The reasons given then, Levey said, were that he had been director of the hospital for 10 years and wanted to “do other things.”
The provost said that patient care and research will not be affected by the loss of the three men. “We believe that we have the interim leadership in place who will be able to effectively address all the problems facing the Neuropsychiatric Hospital and move us forward,” Levey said.
But Arun K. Guha, whose son was found hanging by a belt in his hospital room in November, 1994, said, “There is a meltdown going on” at the institute.
Guha, who lives in Maryland but visits Los Angeles frequently, filed a complaint with the accreditation commission about three months after the body of his son, Sujon Guha, 26, was found.
The young man’s father also subsequently filed a lawsuit against the university and physicians at the hospital, contending that his son’s condition was improperly diagnosed and treated.
As a result of the complaint, the accreditation commission conducted a surprise inspection of the hospital last June and subsequently put it on probationary status.
The commission would not reveal specific problems it uncovered at UCLA, but Rockwell said the panel was concerned over documentation of the patient’s treatment and hospital records that “didn’t contain the information they expected to see.”
UCLA appealed, but the commission rejected the appeal this week. Another review will be conducted in May.
Rockwell disputes the commission’s findings, which call for closer monitoring of hospital operations and development of a plan of correction.
“Clearly it is a black mark,” Rockwell said during an interview. “We just think it is an unfair one and an inappropriate one.”
Among the issues that concerned the commission was whether an attending physician saw Sujon Guha within 24 hours of his admission to the hospital in a suicidal state. Guha contends his son’s care was left to residents.
Times staff writer Nancy Hill-Holtzman contributed to this article.