Doctors and nurses performing surgery.
An example of doctors and nurses performing surgery. Photo from Pixabay.

A woman who once worked as a surgery technician with the renowned late orthopaedist Dr. Frank Jobe is suing the company Jobe and Dr. Robert Kerlan formed, alleging new management “prioritized profit over patient care” and retaliated against her when she complained.

Kristina Holman’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Kerlan-Jobe LLC also names medical partner Cedars-Sinai Medical Center as a defendant. Holman alleges retaliation and both age and disability discrimination, and she seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit brought Wednesday.

A Cedars-Sinai spokesman said Thursday the hospital does not comment on pending litigation.

Kerlan-Jobe is a network of orthopedic surgery centers and clinics founded by Drs. Robert Kerlan and Frank Jobe, who pioneered sports medicine. Jobe was the Dodgers’ first team doctor and pioneered Tommy John surgery, in which the physician treated the left-handed pitcher’s throwing elbow tendon tear with a technique that extended John’s career another 15 years.

The two doctors eventually added nearly every Los Angeles sports team to their list of patients. Kerlan died in September 1996 at age 74 and Jobe died in March 2014 at age 88.

Holman’s relationship with two doctors began when they were staff physicians at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood. Jobe later recruited her to work with Kerlan-Jobe during its early years when the plaintiff was in her 30s, the suit states.

Jobe emphasized quality-of-care and fostered a team effort between doctors and support staff, according to the suit.

“Ms. Holman loved her job, her co-workers and the family environment that Dr. Jobe created,” the suit states.

After Jobe’s death, Kerlan-Jobe’s new management increased its caseload and expanded its services to include pediatric orthopedics, total hip and knee replacement, spinal treatment and other services, the suit states. Kerlan-Jobe partnered with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to expand a network of surgery centers and clinics, according to the suit.

“Kerlan-Jobe prioritized profit over patient care,” the suit alleges. “It was all about the money, how many cases were coming in and less about respect for quality of patient care.”

Dr. Neal S. ElAttrache took over Jobe’s patients and his surgeries were substantially delayed because he overbooked himself, the suit alleges.

“His patients were wealthy individuals and/or notable athletes who expected the best care,” according to the suit.

ElAttrache would abandon his patients for long periods in order to handle post-operation matters for other patients and tend to his phone calls, allowing his patients to be needlessly exposed to general anesthesia and charged for unnecessary medical care, the suit states.

Holman and other employees objected to ElAttrache’s alleged conduct, but nothing was done, the plaintiff alleges.

In 2020, when Holman was in her late 50s, management pressured her to resign and asked if she was willing to work part-time because of her age.

“Ms. Holman was offended,” the suit states. “She neither felt old nor was too old to work.”

Holman reached her breaking point in December 2020 and protested the alleged practice of having employees work through lunch breaks as well as ElAttrache’s conduct with patients, the suit states. She was placed on a lengthy medical leave in order to undergo treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and was fired in 2021 when she sought to return after her doctor said it was OK for her to do so, the suit states.

“Defendants fired a long-term employee begging for her job back, preferring to replace her with a substantially younger employee,” the suit states..

The company continues to hire substantially younger surgery technicians, according to the suit.

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