By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
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But Ginsburg never seemed to grasp exactly what it was he had done wrong, he added.
"`Contrite' was the wrong word," Krugman said. "I don't think he felt he had intended to do anything like this, and I think he was a little bit mystified by it...He was sorry that this was trouble. But I don't think in retrospect...that he ever really acknowledged the impact he was having on others."
Rather than "shaping up," Ginsburg continued to subject nurses in the Cath Lab to a barrage of inappropriate behavior over the following eighteen months, according to a pleading filed by hospital attorney Joseph Jaudon in federal court last week. Jaudon, who declines comment, doesn't describe any of that alleged conduct in detail in his filing. But the pleading says the doctor continuously subjected female employees to sexual innuendo, offensive language and "unwanted" physical contact.
"Dr. Ginsburg's action prompted a hostile working environment, resulting in increased stress and mental anguish for several employees," Jaudon wrote in the pleading. "Dr. Ginsburg failed to treat employees and patients with dignity and respect."
Karen Moore, a Cath Lab nurse, wrote in an affidavit that Ginsburg gave preferential treatment to women who put up with his alleged antics. "Dr. Ginsburg tended to treat nurses and other staff differently depending on whether they were `favorites' of his and whether they appeared to be more accepting of his behavior," Moore said. "This tended to polarize the staff to some extent and make it more difficult to function as a team."
Affidavits by other Cath Lab employees reveal how uncomfortable Ginsburg's conduct made them. Nurse Cathy Clark, for instance, wrote that Ginsburg was "verbally abusive and alienating." Sheri Baker-Macelli, the lab secretary, said in a sworn statement that if Ginsburg were to come back to University Hospital, "I could not continue to work there."
Even though Ginsburg didn't have the direct authority to fire any of the Cath Lab staff, many of the nurses believed that they might be dismissed if they complained, says the hospital employee familiar with the case. And Ginsburg allegedly made no effort to dispel that notion. "There were people in fear for their jobs, because if they didn't play along, they were going to be censured," the employee says. "It was very, very ugly."
Last summer, Moore finally lodged a written complaint against Ginsburg, setting in motion University Hospital's formal disciplinary machinery. The hospital established the five-member investigative committee to look into the matter. On the committee were four doctors and a nurse. In October, after interviewing two dozen witnesses, the committee recommended that Ginsburg's privileges at the hospital be terminated. The committee suggested that Ginsburg might be allowed to return after a one-year suspension, but only if he agreed to acknowledge his behavior and undergo psychiatric evaluation. Ginsburg rejected that offer.
Like the attorneys involved in the case, the University Hospital employee declines to be specific about the actual alleged acts of sexual harassment by Ginsburg. But the employee says the fact that a committee made up mostly of doctors urged that Ginsburg be dismissed is itself an indicator of how objectionable his conduct was. Physicians, the employee says, are notorious for their circle-the-wagons mentality--and they are almost always loath to criticize one of their own colleagues.
"I have never seen doctors get together and censure another doctor," says the employee. "Even if they don't like the guy and they think he's the slime of the earth, they still don't censure him. And the people who censured Bob were his own peers. For that to happen, you have to think there was some pretty strong stuff going on here. They don't do that lightly."
After Ginsburg's privileges were suspended last fall, he filed suit against University Hospital in Denver District Court, seeking reinstatement of his job as well as monetary compensation for the damage to his reputation and his emotional pain and suffering. Also named as defendants in the suit were two of the Cath Lab employees who'd complained about him and Kathleen Mills, the hospital's in-house lawyer. One of Ginsburg's claims in the suit was that attorney Mills harbored "animosity and bias" toward him and tried to "coerce, influence and pressure" the nurses into filing formal sexual-harassment charges.
Ginsburg's lawyer, George Dikeou, acknowledged in court pleadings that Ginsburg participated in off-color humor at the Cath Lab. But Dikeou claimed that such banter is an accepted part of life in the lab among doctors and nurses alike. The jokes even served a good purpose, the attorney said, helping to relieve tension during pressure-filled "life-and-death" surgical procedures.
And Ginsburg refrained from such talk around those employees who told him it made them uncomfortable, Dikeou claimed. "Such behavior and humor was consensual on the part of those who participated, including Cath Lab nurses," Dikeou wrote in one pleading. "Such behavior and humor was not continued in the presence of those who were offended."
As divergent as their accounts of what happened in the lab are, both Ginsburg and the hospital agreed on one thing initially: Details of the case should remain hidden from the public.