Former Desert Healthcare CEO files wrongful termination claim

Conrado Bárzaga, MD, former CEO of Palm Springs, Calif.-based Desert Healthcare District & Foundation, has filed a claim alleging wrongful termination, the Desert Sun reported April 18.

Dr. Bárzaga alleges in the claim, dated March 25, that the district board terminated him "without cause and in violation of his contract and California law," according to the newspaper. 

Dr. Bárzaga was named CEO in 2019 after helming the California-based Center for Oral Health. The hospital announced his departure in September 2023, a week after Dr. Bárzaga gave a presentation regarding Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare's proposed 30-year lease for the 387-bed Desert Regional Medical Center. The district did not provide details for the departure when it was announced, and some lawmakers expressed surprise about the departure at the time. Chris Christensen, chief administration officer, was named interim CEO.

Dr. Bárzaga's claim alleges some personnel and district board members "inaccurately believed Dr. Bárzaga favored Latinos and persons of color while Dr. Bárzaga was the CEO," according to the Desert Sun

"In public and private meetings, DHD officers stated that Dr. Bárzaga engaged in favoritism and unscrupulous dealings in DHD's business activities. Such statements were false and defamatory," the claim said.

According to the Desert Sun, the claim also said the district's decision "negatively affected the DHD's organizational credibility and maligned Dr. Bárzaga's integrity" and "harmed Dr. Bárzaga’s reputation in the Coachella Valley community and medical profession."

Dr. Bárzaga claims he has suffered lost wages, the loss of future earnings and other damages as a result of his termination.

Mr. Christensen told the Desert Sun that the district, a local government agency, "will respond with a denial of the claim." He also declined further comment, citing the legal matter. 

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