Kaweah Health CEO defends hospital amidst open state investigation

This article was updated to include a comment from Kaweah Health.

Kaweah Health CEO Gary Herbst defended his hospital stating that though a recent state investigation “had value,” the investigators were “incompetent” and “on a crusade.” Herbst made the remarks in a wide-ranging interview with the Valley Voice.

Despite statements from Herbst and hospital officials that the state’s investigation of the hospital was finished, state officials told the Voice that the investigation had not closed.

State health officials say the investigation into the mishandling and theft of drugs by a physician at Kaweah Health Medical Center, as well as the overdose death of a contracted employee who died while using stolen drugs in a public bathroom in the emergency department has yet to be concluded.

The news directly contradicts several assertions by Kaweah Health officials and Herbst, who in July announced a successful end to the state’s investigation and a finding of substantial compliance by the district.

The announcement was made via the district’s website and is one of only two official statements on the investigation and the events leading to it made by the district. In his initial announcement, Herbst also stated state regulators would not conduct a return visit to the district. It is not now clear if that statement is true.

Kaweah Health officials told the Voice that they had fully cooperated with the investigation and that no items remained.

“Kaweah Health has fully cooperated and responded to any/all CDPH requests. At this time, we are not aware of any remaining or outstanding items related to the two investigations in question,” a statement read.

No End In Sight

A representative for the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) confirmed that agency’s probes of the Kaweah Delta Health Care District (KDHCD) continue after denying a Voice request for documents surrounding the investigation.

“These investigations are ongoing,” wrote Mark Smith, an information officer for CDPH. “Any details about any ongoing investigations are kept confidential until the investigation is complete and findings are issued to the facility.”

Smith’s statement did not indicate when the investigation would end, and he declined a follow-up request for information on the status of the investigation.

“Once findings from an investigation have been finalized and issued to the facility, records are provided publicly on our Cal Health Find database,” the CDPH statement continued. “You are also welcome to check back with us periodically on these investigations and if any records are available. This concludes CDPH’s response to your request.”

Herbst Critical of CDPH Investigators

In the wake of his statements that KDHCD was in the clear, Herbst described the response by regulators–both the CDPH and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which ordered the investigation–as “over the top.”

He was personally critical of the individual investigators assigned to the case, who performed a weeks-long probe beginning in March.

“These guys were on a crusade,” Herbst said. “They were on a mission.”

In denying the facts in the 250-plus pages of findings issued by CMS were correctly reported, Herbst claimed CDPH investigators were not qualified to perform the investigation of his district.

“It (being investigated) was incredibly frustrating because these people were incompetent,” he said. “I will tell you they were incompetent.”

No Legal Representation for District

Specifically, Herbst felt investigators were not quick enough to comprehend his explanation of events or his statements of fact during sessions with them, and he felt their understanding of the complex series of incidents leading to the investigation was inadequate.

“It’s the surveyors who are just peppering you with questions, and I’m answering it, particularly (questions about) this anesthesiologist, and she (the state investigator) would say that, and I would say, ‘I didn’t say that. Here’s what I just said,’” Herbst recalled of a session with a CDPH investigator. “And she’s, ‘Well, I’m so confused. I can’t remember all this.’ Well, why don’t you write it down? Maybe then you wouldn’t be so confused.”

Herbst and others connected to KDHCD did not record audio or video of their interviews with investigators, nor did they have legal counsel present during questioning.

“We don’t do that,” Herbst said.

CEO Says Investigators Lied

Information contained in the investigative report–the result of review of documents and videos, review of policies and procedures, criminal reports and eyewitness interviews–produced by CDPH at the request of CMS should not be considered by the public to be a correct accounting of events, Herbst said

“You need to be careful that you don’t read the CMS reports as factual,” he said.

The CMS report, Herbst said, is a fundamentally flawed document that was carelessly produced and apparently intended to harm Kaweah Health.

“That report is full of hundreds of misstatements, errors, just false statements, misinformation attributing quotes,” he said.

Herbst claims investigators altered witness testimony and in some cases invented it entirely.

“The people with numerous witnesses where those quotes, those statements, were never made,” Herbst said. “And yet they were documented in the CMS report.”

Investigation Caught Hospital Leaders Unaware

Herbst said the motivation for conducting what he called an “unprecedented” investigation, why state investigators were putting pressure on Kaweah Health he felt was unnecessary, frustrating and intrusive.

“Why? I don’t know why,” he said. “We have never, ever experienced anything like this before.”

To his knowledge, Herbst said this is also the first time a worker has died of an overdose of drugs stolen from the hospital’s supply.

After the overdose death of the medical transcriptionist on December 22, 2020, Kaweah Health reported the death, and the associated theft of drugs to CDPH, and expected that to be the end of the incident. When investigators arrived in March, it came as a surprise to the district’s leaders.

“…Notifying CMS, which they never told us they were going to do, that was unexpected,” Herbst said. “In late March, all of a sudden six surveyors from– They say CMS, but they’re actually from CDPH.”

For nine days, the six state investigators worked 15-plus-hour days to complete their evaluation, Herbst said.

Herbst Wanted Oversight of Investigation

Further, Herbst criticized the CDPH investigation for not informing hospital representatives who would be interviewed. He also expressed upset that no one from the hospital was allowed to be present with witnesses as they gave their testimony to the investigators.

“They (CDPH) conduct secret interviews with multiple, multiple people. We’re not allowed to be present,” Herbst said. “So they’re interviewing employees, residents, doctors. We have no idea what’s being said and what’s being recorded.”

Herbst claims several of the people interviewed during the course of the CMS-ordered investigation told him the report does not reflect what they actually told investigators. Herbst also said his own testimony was misrepresented.

“I can say that there’s quotes from me that I (made a statement). And I said, ‘I didn’t say this,’” he said. “And I asked the people that were in the room with me, ‘Did I say this?’”

Herbst Says Investigation Was Needed

Herbst agrees in principle that an investigation was warranted following the confirmation by his staff that drugs were stolen from the hospital supplies, that it resulted in the death of the worker in the ER, and a second death the same night–that of an ER patient whose drug supply was stolen by the worker who would later die–came under unusual circumstances.

“I mean, don’t get me wrong. I think there was value that came out of this spot,” he said. “I do think we have tightened things up. We’re a better organization.”

Yet the Kaweah Health CEO still maintains the regulatory response was out of proportion.

“But I will tell you that what they did was a complete overreaction in my mind, because, again, two events,” Herbst said. “We have no history in this organization of having these types of events.”

‘Drug-Infested Organization’

The CDPH report included a look into two certified registered nurse anesthesiologists practicing at Kaweah Health Medical Center who were discovered to be using illicit drugs, one of which was suspected of intoxication while working with patients and relieved of her duties. The other died of an overdose at home using drugs not obtained at her place of work.

Herbst felt it was unfair on the part of investigators to include those incidents in their findings.

“CMS pile that on and said, ‘See, you’re a drug-infested organization,’” Herbst said. “Another CRNA, home with a friend, they overdose. They never got their drugs from the hospital. As soon as we found out about it, reported (the incident) to the police, fired her.”

CMS was also concerned the district allowed a CRNA with a previously documented substance abuse problem to practice at its hospital, and investigators included a summary of that in their report. The woman had completed a five-year treatment program, according to Herbst, and the hospital performed due diligence in checking her background. He was unsure if the CRNA who had undergone treatment was the same one who later died at home of an overdose.

“But again, I’m in this interview and I’m saying, ‘And tell me how we handle those inappropriately,’” he said.

Herbst, Colleagues Angered by Investigation

Hospital staff, Herbst said, felt personally insulted by the CDPH’s lines of questioning and the resulting report.

“I mean, they painted us like we were some drug-infested– Like, drug abuse was rampant here, and we were putting patients’ lives at risk every day,” he said. “And it made us angry during the survey. Where’s your evidence?”

Like the investigation into his organization’s conduct, Herbst’s emotional distress regarding it is ongoing.

“I’m angry and upset,” he said. “It’s coming to the state and the federal government.”

Herbst described an atmosphere of hostility among staff at Kaweah Health while the half-dozen state agents conducted their inquiry into the two deaths that occurred on December 22, 2020, and looked into the theft of drugs in multiple departments in Kaweah Health Medical Center by at least two medical workers–an anesthesiologist and the medical scribe who died in the ER bathroom. Both were contracted employees not directly employed by the district but granted practice privileges at its facilities.

‘Angry Through That Entire Survey’

KDHCD’s CEO also lashed out again at the individuals who performed the CMS-requested investigation.

The local policy and enforcement failures that resulted in the death of a worker and a patient, he said, should not be seen by them as part of a wider problem. Two nurse anesthesiologists with known substance-abuse problems who relapsed while working at Kaweah Health, the death of the scribe, the theft of federally-controlled narcotics for personal use by a physician, failure to uphold standards of monitoring and control of dangerous pharmaceuticals, repeated reports of used needles and empty drug containers in employee-frequented bathrooms, all these incidents and others mentioned in the investigators’ report should be considered unrelated, according to Herbst.

While the CMS–an arm of the US Department of Health and Human Services–initiated the investigation of Kaweah Health, it was a lack of professionalism on the part of agents of three local CDPH offices that caused what Herbst says is a deeply flawed and factually inaccurate report of its findings.

“Actually, the federal government was never involved in this when they delegated to the state and the incompetency that they sent here, right?” Herbts said. “We were angry through that entire survey, the false accusations they made, the way they approached this (their investigation), that they took these two isolated instances, tried to pull in other stuff where we handled it beautifully.”

Media’s Reaction Harmful, CEO Says

Herbst admits things got out of control in several ways under his watch, but he is also emphatic that the organization was treated unfairly by regulators.

“But, yes, we had an impairment (of a medical worker on the job), and we had two people that died at home from a drug overdose,” he said. “But they (CDPH) piled it on to try to paint a picture of widespread illicit drug use.”

He believes the public trust in Kaweah Health has been and remains at a high level. The findings of CDPH and CMS have not created unease among the district’s voters, and the public should remain unconcerned and will remain unconcerned as long as Kaweah Medical isn’t subjected to undue scrutiny by the press.

“I don’t think it (the CDPH report) will (impact Kaweah Medical’s image negatively). No,” Herbst said. “Unless the media keeps the story alive and just continues to make a big deal out of it. No, I don’t think it’s going to harm Kaweah’s reputation at all.”

Public Still Trusts Kaweah Health

Members of the public, Herbst said, feel bad a worker at Kaweah Medical died by his own hand–Herbst maintains the death was intentional, a mid-shift suicide, and not an accidental overdose by someone described by close colleagues in the CDPH report as a known chronic drug-user–but they are also forgiving despite not having a full understanding of the deaths, thefts, other incidents, and the events surrounding them.

“People feel bad,” Herbst said. “The community feels bad that a person died, but they also understand addiction and how healthcare workers are at the top of the list in terms of those that are most vulnerable to it.”

The public at large, Herbst maintains, continues to admire Kaweah Health as an organization and provider of healthcare and his role as its leader during this crisis.

“I think the community chalks it up that the hospital did the right thing. It self-reported. It took action,” he said. “I’ve been actually praised as an organization for transparency and our response to it.”

12 thoughts on “Kaweah Health CEO defends hospital amidst open state investigation

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  1. I have heard that there are about 6,000 employees of Kaweah Health, the size of a small city. In this case, a city with regular access to medications. It does not strike me as unexpected that there is periodic misuse of those drugs. I have worked in hospitals and clinics as long ago as 1960 and illicit drug use appeared to have always been something of concern in such a setting. I am impressed that KH has had the good track record that it has had. The medical system and the people within it are under even greater than usual pressure with the advent of COVID-19. Let’s support them and give them credit for what they do well. Let’s support drug addiction programs for those who are in misusing drugs. I pray we maintain a balanced approach as we address the inevitable societal issues which exist within all large institutions made up of fallible human beings and in this case, Kaweah Health.

    • According to my talk with Herbst, the hospital has had just four instances he’s aware of during 60 years, but all of them have occurred in the last few years, after the medical staff started self-educating on the signs of drug diversion. You don’t find a problem if you don’t look.

  2. This CEO needs to be fired. Of course CDPH was going to do a facility visit and investigate – is he really that dumb. He is over the top defensive which makes you wonder why in the world he still has a job. IDIOT. The hospital has a serious leadership problem. DONT GO THERE

  3. I’m writing as a mom whose kids have been treated at Kaweah Health, not as the owner of the Valley Voice.

    The Central Valley is a health care desert and we are all lucky to have a hospital as financially viable and of such high quality as Kaweah Health. The above advice “Don’t go there” is ridiculous. I have many legitimate complaints, like so many of us, about the quality of care at Kaweah Health. But if I were in a car accident or my kids were afflicted with something easily treatable or diagnosable, where would I be running to as fast as humanly possible? Kaweah Health, and I would be grateful.

    The American healthcare system is incredibly unjust. Until people got accustomed to the idea of Obamacare, access to a doctor was seen as a privilege and not a human right. If you are poor you are more likely to die of a complicated medical condition than if you were rich, just like the poor are more likely to go to jail because they can’t afford a lawyer. Unless it is a routine medical procedure rich people who live here go to San Francisco, Los Angeles or the Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara for diagnosis and treatment.

    Tulare County is poor and Kaweah Health’s quality of services is a reflection of that fact, not a cause.

    My son spent a week in Kaweah Health and was still very sick when he was abruptly discharged. It took so long for him to see the specialist that I had to call and cancel his appointment because he had died. I have to see his lead doctor, who pulled Alex’ diagnosis out of his ass, at Lifestyles Gym and it takes everything I have not to vault over the equipment and strangle him. As a layman, I’m fairly certain I know what Alex died of, I wish the hospital did.

    A week later a neighbor called and really wanted me to visit her in the hospital. It was not pleasant walking through the same doors I had walked through a week before to say goodbye to my son as they withdrew life support, but she wanted some company and moral support.
    Kaweah Health diagnosed her problem and she got excellent care. In other instances my daughters have received excellent care.

    In general terms it depends on what your medical condition is when getting treated at Kaweah Health. Some people leave in a body bag some people leave right as rain. I think Kaweah Health could reduce the number of body bags.

    A lot of residents and employees have legitimate and serious complaints about the hospital. I wish Kaweah Health would just acknowledge peoples’ complaints and move forward.

    • I’m with you Catherine and your last sentence says it all. I personally wouldn’t hesitate to check into Kaweah Health and over these many years my family and I have only experienced good care and treatment there (Hospice made my mother’s passing bearable, I love each and every staff member working on that unit). But residents and employees who have legitimate and serious complaints about the hospital need and SHOULD be acknowledged. You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge. CEO sounds a trite defensive and immature, which is totally unnecessary. These agents from the three local CDPH offices had a job to do, just like he does. He should be professional enough to control such petulant verbal responses. It will not serve him well in the long run.

  4. Just so everyone is aware: Residents are doctors, actual physicians. CRNAs are certified registered nurse anesthetists, not anesthesiologists. Anesthesiologists are physicians. Words matter so patients know who is treating them.

  5. Victor Robert Krumdick
    His story of life and death in the Kaweah Delta ER
    Preface
    On the night of December 21,22 of last year our precious son Victor (32) died while on shift in the Emergency Room at Kaweah Delta Hospital. Nine months later, my wife and I and our daughter Corrie are still trying to pick up the pieces left behind by this terrible tragedy and with some small progress, we are trying to recover our own broken hearts and minds.
    Unlike what we hear about daily in our news, I am not in the slightest trying to exonerate Victor. Our son was guilty of stealing medicine (propofol) and accidentally administering a lethal dose. Obviously, his actions caused his own death and that has profoundly affected those of us who remain behind.
    Prompted by months of deep soul searching, the ensuing pain and devastation, waiting months for the final autopsy report, the most hurtful utter silence of the hospital administration, and the chance look at two newspaper articles in July, I have chosen to tell you Victor’s story from our perspective. As in the telling of any story, ours is a biased view, that of a grieving mother and father. Victor’s sister, coworkers, and dear friends from other seasons of his life would perhaps tell a different tale, but this is our story to tell.
    Another Victor Krumdick is born
    Buddy was born on March 5, 1988 in South Lake Tahoe, Ca. He was the forth and last generation of the Victor Krumdicks. We named our son after my Dad and after his Welsh Grandpa Taid (Robert). I remember bringing him home from the hospital, holding him in my arms and asking my wife, “What are we supposed to do with it?” For the next 32 years, I strove to be the best possible Dad that I could be, notwithstanding my many shortcomings and failures. Our son always had a soft, gentle side. He was compassionate, and mature at a young age. He loved playing the fiddle (violin) for his Uncle Bob and in general, he loved life. He also loved to travel. As a young boy, he was able to travel with us to his mom’s hometown of llandudno in North Wales… these times put the travel bug in Buddy’s young heart.
    When he was 17, he took his first job as a loader at UPS. I never knew the circumstance, but he had a bad fall and injured his back. Buddy spent the next fifteen years of his life in constant, often excruciating pain. As any of you who have dealt with such incapacitating pain know, this led to a lifelong battle with pain medicine, addiction, bogus alternative medicine treatments, back surgery and the like.
    Ironically, our son was a survivor of many very difficult challenges in his life. Yet, he was determined to make it on his own but after a lot typical life obstacles, setbacks, heartaches, and challenges, my wife and I Invited Buddy back home. For the next four years, that became a refuge and a safe place for our son to sort out life’s issues.
    A Miraculous Turn of Events
    About that same time, I had asked Buddy to come help me clean up my lifelong friend’s back yard. I’ll call him C. He had the most severe case of Parkinson’s Disease that I have ever witnessed. C chose to live on his own, but as his disease progressed, he had more and more trouble taking care of his own needs. C had lots of falls and his body and his home reflected it. Anyway, when we knocked the door… we heard a thud, but no answer. When I went inside, I found C lying in his own blood, tooth missing and of scrapes and lacerations on his face. Needless to say, yardwork was out for the day and we headed off to the Kaweah Delta Emergency Room. While waiting with C in triage, I happened to notice a of couple scribes, following patients and doctors around. I said to Buddy that their job looked like a great one and that he should look into it. Buddy agreed. He did so immediately, and to his surprise, there were two openings. Out of several hundred applications, our son landed one of those jobs! Ever since, I have reminded C that if he hadn’t crashed and fell that day, Buddy would have never begun his life changing experience.
    New Life in the ER
    Working in the ER, profoundly changed our son’s life. Buddy still had his life challenges and all the drama that accompanied him. He still had his pain, his clinical anxiety and depression and his sleeplessness. But, this young man changed. He discovered his calling. He found a whole new family in the ER. He would come home after a shift and tell me all the stuff that went on about his new friends and in general about the craziness that accompanies life as a worker in the ER.
    Victor had decided to become a Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) as that would likely be his shortest route into becoming an ER doctor. He had completed almost three years of his AA requirements and was working hard at his math and science classes. He was on his way. Sadly, about three weeks after Buddy died, he received his EMT certificate in the mail.
    Buddy also became our intern family doctor. He helped so much with the caretaking of his Mayme… my mom. Whenever, any family member had ailments, he was on top of it… inexperience not withstanding!
    Most important to Victor was his new family. How they loved Victor and he loved them! From the most menial worker to the honcho doctors and everyone in between, Buddy had a special way of communicating and making others feel their own worth and importance in the midst of their own life struggles.
    Buddy Victor was on his new path. He would dream of his future success. He assured Gill and I that wherever we ended up in our old age, he would be nearby to take care of us. He dreamed of taking his mom traveling. Life for all of us, was not easy but we saw daylight our son’s future and that gave us some hope.
    The Days Leading Up to Dec 21,22
    Early December is a busy time and for Buddy, that was no exception. The hustle and bustle of Christmas time was upon us. Buddy loved Christmastime and plans were in full swing. Buying gifts and preparing for our Roast Beast and Buddy’s Welsh Trifle recipe… Victor had a couple of difficult science finals and he was stressing about that. On one day he had a final, our son spent eight hours helping our friend and severely ill neighbor try to get the medical attention she needed. That was our son, willing to set aside his stuff to help another. Plus, he was working overnights at the ER so he wasn’t getting proper rest. To make matters worse, his back pain had again become unbearable. All of which led to more anxiety for our son. Perhaps the hardest thing for Buddy was that Gill and I had asked him to consider moving to my sister’s place. She was living in the country outside of town and needed a roommate. Maybe that was the final stressor, I’ll never know. But I have sure battled with the wonderings and guilt of that.
    A couple of days before Buddy died, we were driving down Mooney Blvd and I looked at him… he was hurting in a lot of ways. I told him that whatever he decided on the move, that Mom and I had been so blessed to have him back in our home. I told Victor that when he left home after high school, we felt like he was ripped away from us but we both felt that our Heavenly Father had given us back some of those years. We were both a little teared up but he said to me, “I feel the same way Dad”.
    When Buddy left for work, normally he would stick his head in our room, we would roll our eyes at each other acknowledging what the shift might bring, then we would say “ I love you” to each other and off he would go. That night, he seemed so exhausted physically, mentally, and spiritually…
    The Call
    It was about 3 a.m. on the morning of December 22 when Gill and I received the call. There had been an incident at the hospital involving Victor and we needed to get down there right away. The only problem was that because my car was in the shop, our son had taken our only car with him to work that evening. We won’t forget that night. It was about 25 degrees outside while Gill and I waited on the street for a taxi to come pick us up. It took about 35 minutes for the cab to arrive.
    All that time, Gill and I were standing out shivering in the cold, holding each other knowing that something was terribly wrong… somehow knowing the worst had taken place. We met our daughter, Miss Corrie, at the hospital and were promptly ushered into a room with about five other people. We were told that there had been an incident involving some missing drugs. A lockdown of the ER ensued and our son was seen on the video taking the medicine. After quite a lengthy search, Buddy was found dead in a locked ER bathroom. He had overdosed on a drug called propofol. We were in that room for twenty minutes or so while we were asked questions about our son… questions about his anxiety and depression, I informed them of his intense battle with his pain, they asked if Buddy was suicidal.
    Then, we were allowed to go in and see his body. Victor’s spirit had obviously flown and his body was cold to the touch… he had been dead a while. That time was very upsetting yet very precious to us. Our son finally looked at peace. We held him, kissed him, and said our goodbyes to our very special “baby Buddy Victor”.
    The chaplain was a kind man, trying to console us, but in the end there really weren’t any words of comfort. There was simply a surrealistic shock of disbelief and a great emptiness. Our Buddy was gone. The sheriff’s corner continued to ask questions, gave us some information on suicide help groups, to which Gill adamantly responded, “my son did not commit suicide”.
    And then we went home.
    The Memorial Service and the Notebook
    Following the next days of utter shock and almost disbelief, Miss Corrie arranged a small memorial service for our son. She and some friends set up a very nice arrangement at our friends coffee shop, Le Boulevard, two houses down from our home. I had told our daughter that our prime concern was to make a place available for Victor’s ER family to come and pay their respects. We couldn’t have asked for a more kind, sensitive, and compassionate time both to honor Victor and to express our appreciation for his friends. We were able to meet so many people that our son had talked about during the past few years A few of our friends stopped by as well as some of Buddy’s old friends. We were blessed. It was good and it was bittersweet.
    A little over a month after Buddy’s passing, I was contacted by one of his co-workers. Apparently, they had set aside a place where his friends and fellow workers could come and grieve their loss and also write little notes or post photos of them or our son. I was asked if we would be interested in having a photo album of those things… obviously we gratefully accepted. It is a treasure to us, a wonderful reminder of Victor’s life in the ER.
    Months of Utter Silence
    Basically, the next six or seven months were a time of grieving as is common with anyone who has tragically lost a loved one, particularly a son or daughter. Anger, acceptance, questioning our Heavenly Father’s purposes, and the total silence from people whom we once considered dear friends. The silence of the hospital administration was their worst possible decision for our family. Absolutely not one contact from the higher echelons of Kaweah Delta administration. I believe that decision showed a lack of courage and professionalism which only cast more doubt as to what actually transpired with the mishandling of medication at the hospital. Obviously, the entire ER staff was put on some sort of gag order as an investigation ensued. And other than an initial death certificate… pending toxicology, nothing from the coroner. It was as if my little family was living in a sheltered bubble… and for Miss Corrie and I it was a very angry and dangerous bubble.
    After months of bouts of wailing grief and /or utter silence, I finally shared my truest and deepest thoughts with my brother Kurt and sisters Laura and Jennifer. I broke down in a flood of sorrow, grief, broken heartedness, and the intense realization of broken dreams and futures. Seemingly, we were all turning the corners of grief and were coming out of this unhealthy limbo we were in the midst of.
    The Newspaper Articles
    That is until July 21, 2121. I was coming home from the gym and I stopped to pick up a couple things from the store. On my way out, I glanced at the newspaper rack and noticed a headline from the Sun-Herald: “Kaweah Health ED delayed by staffing, “diversion” events”. I bought the paper. The article was written by Ben Irwin. The paper quoted Kaweah Delta CEO Gary Herbst. I quote: “In December 2020, at the height of the pandemic when Kaweah Health had 170 COVID patients in acute care was nearing 100% capacity, the scribe snuck into the emergency department around midnight. He found an empty room where an IV of a common sedative known as propofol was still hanging from a patient who had passed away a few hours before….the scribe found a syringe in the room, extracted some of the sedative and then went to an employee bathroom where he was found unresponsive next to the syringe and later pronounced dead shortly after”. Obviously, the scribe spoken about was our son. And the CEO, in our view, made him out to be nothing more than a common criminal. Thank you for nothing, Gary… but for directly causing more pain and suffering. I have a couple things to clarify Gary. First, Victor was on shift that night working among your covid patients. He was among those health care workers that were once labeled heroes during the pandemic. Second, the way you described the event was morbid and it portrayed Victor as some sicko. Maybe, rather than describing your “diversion event” you might have been a little more careful in your description and presumed knowledge of what likely happened… instead of protecting your so called hospital reputation and justifying why your new ER was delayed. You made your statement in such a way that Victor was made your patsy for the mismanagement of hospital medications and late opening of the ER.
    Needless to say, my family was enraged at both the distorted accusations, the pretense of anonymity with which our son was dealt, and the zero effort to communicate with us. I believe you slandered a good, but hurting young man and indirectly, our entire family. Shame on you.
    While still trying to work through that article, I find myself back shopping the following Tuesday and the Times-Delta on July 27 had a front page headline, “Drug Thefts, Lack of Nurses” an article written by Joshua Yeager. The article, although slightly less descriptive, told of Buddy stealing propofol from a used iv bag, took it into an ER bathroom and administered a lethal dose to himself.
    Again, it appeared that Gary Herbst was using the incident of my son’s death as a primary reason his new ER facility took so long to be up and running. Once again, I do not condone my son’s foolish action. He was of making some very poor choices and it cost him his life. But please remember the context of our son heading off to work that night. Further, for Gary to imply that the ER was endangering patients because of our son’s poor choice is simply a crock of shit… a “diversion” of your own, if you will. Our son or any other staff worker should have never been allowed to access such medicine. (for the reader a note: I believe you can find this same type of problem in any hospital across our nation… happens all the time.) Spin it as you may, there is a culpability that lies with you and your administrative staff, Gary.
    Aftermath
    The following week, I contacted the Sheriff’s Coroner and asked him if he had concluded his autopsy report. He had, I went down to the courthouse and obtained the amended certificates. The coroner ruled Buddy’s death accidental. There was enough uncertainty in his findings to not rule his death a suicide. To me, it didn’t much matter… our son is gone. But to my wife, family, and friends the ruling left some small sort of consolation. Those who knew Buddy, they would tell you he was never suicidal and despite his difficulties, he was very much looking to what the future held for him and his family.
    As for our family, we will take each new day as it comes. We put our faith and hope not in the things of this world, but in the promises of our Lord, Jesus Christ. He will sustain us, heal us, comfort us, and perhaps bring us to a place of peace and joy once again.
    Epilogue
    So, I conclude our story of our son Victor Robert Krumdick. I very much appreciate all of you who took the time to read this account. I ask you to make your own judgements and conclusions. I have so much to share, but this is not the time and place. Gary, you lost one of your own and by all appearances, you made him the fall guy. Running a hospital that the entire community supports and is proud of is not that difficult. My advice to you is that you would always start with the utmost awareness, care, and safety of your employees, treat your people first. In the long run, your incoming patients will always be much better off. If our son’s death causes you to become a better CEO and helps prevent others like Victor from getting themselves into trouble, and as you learn more about him, perhaps his story could become lessons that other workers could glean from. Then perhaps, Buddy Victor’s life and death in The Kaweah Delta Emergency Room will not end up all for naught.
    Lastly, I remind the readers that this is a story by distraught and grieving parents. There is always more to every story. But I can tell you this: Although we are so sorry for the way Buddy Victor’s life ended, Gill and I loved our son so much. It was a blessing, honor, and a privilege to have birthed and raised our wonderful son.
    Thank you for reading his story.
    Victor Robert and Gillian Mary Krumdick

    • I’m so sorry for your loss and it’s absolutely devastating and heartbreaking that you lost your son in such a tragic way. As a former employee of Kaweah Health, I can assure you that their organization is toxic, hostile, corrupt, and malignant to the core. It’s been that way for many years. The administrators do not value the healthcare staff that keep that hospital afloat. I’ve observed hospital administrators and managers bully and fire staff that raise patient safety concerns. They view their staff as a liability rather than an asset. It’s disgusting and shameful that Gary Herbst made that assumption about your son’s death and he should be terminated. The true incompetence lies within Mr. Herbst. He is not a qualified leader. I couldn’t imagine what your son was having to experience in the ER during the pandemic. Witnessing too many deaths and suffering amongst the chaos, as well as being physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. He sacrificed a lot in caring for his patients. I can assure you that your son, Victor, did more with bringing light into this world and making it a better place than Mr. Herbst ever has and ever will. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I pray the Lord will provide you and your family comfort and guidance through this tragic loss.

  6. I think the greatest sorrow in a parent’s life is that of losing one’s child. The “hole” in your heart is forever. God bless and comfort you and your family.

  7. To the leadership of Kaweah Health: Regardless of whether “an employee” is hired by the hospital or as a contractor working for the hospital, shouldn’t they be expected to meet the same requirements and standards?

    Let’s acknowledge and recognize the problems, take corrective actions and move forward. Playing defensive only makes one less competent. We can all listen more and talk less especially when we make mistakes, which makes us more professional.

    To Mr and Mrs. Krumdick:
    Thank you for sharing your story of Victor while grieving! We are sorry for your loss. Let’s hope this incident wakes up the community, the organization and the general public to prevent similar or devastating events from happening again.

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