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Investigators Give High Marks to City Clinics in Santa Ana

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two months after the death of a 13-month-old treated by a man who lacked a medical license, Santa Ana police have completed their investigation into the city’s 25 clinics and are giving them a clean bill of health.

“They’re all legit and apparently doing a very good job,” Santa Ana Police Lt. Hugh Mooney said. “They don’t like the bad clinics. In fact, they hate them more than we do because it gives them a bad name.”

The only significant problem investigators found was a weight-loss clinic that didn’t have the proper licensing, Mooney said.

The clinic investigations came in the wake of the April 23 death of Christopher Martinez, allegedly after he was treated by Gamaliel Moreno who authorities say posed as a physician at the private Consultorio Medico de Santa Ana. Sparked by a flood of community anger and concern, Police Chief Paul M. Walters vowed to verify the licenses of all physicians operating medical clinics in the city.

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During the past few weeks, Santa Ana police teamed up with state and federal investigators from California’s medical board, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to drop by medical offices throughout the city, many of which catered to poor Latino immigrants.

Despite the findings, there may still be some illegal clinics in the city, Mooney said. In fact, he said he believes the increased public scrutiny has driven such clinics underground.

“We went to one location that had closed up the week before. I think this has been a very big reminder to a number of them,” he said.

Now the emphasis will be turning to what police and health educators hope will have a more lasting impact: community education.

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Several health organizations in the county, including Latino Health Access, St. Joseph Hospital’s La Amistad health program, and Free Health Plan, are preparing to meet next week to plan an outreach campaign.

“What we want to tell the public is there are certainly other resources available. People need to know there are alternatives for good low-cost or no-cost health care,” said Felicia Helf, a consultant for the Coalition for Health Education.

“There’s been a groundswell of interest in this,” said Dr. Mary Watson, director of Free Health Plan, which offers free medical care at two locations in Santa Ana. “We really don’t want this to happen again.”

The Martinez toddler had been taken to Consultorio Medico de Santa Ana with symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting. He was injected five times with an unknown substance over three days of treatment. His parents said they had been instructed to withhold food and water.

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Police have since issued a murder warrant for the arrest of Moreno, who has fled the area. A month ago, authorities in Mexico discovered his car at an airport garage in Tijuana. His wife, Eulalia, has been arrested and charged with being an accessory to murder.


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