A former physician at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center faces five years of probation after the state medical board found that he was negligent in caring for four pregnant patients, and that he falsified documents.
The Medical Board of California issued its ruling on Nov. 10 for Dr. Eldridge Pearsall, who left the Burbank hospital in 2008 and currently works at Clinica Sierra Vista in Fresno.
According to court documents, hospital workers were unable to reach Pearsall on four occasions, or he was busy with patients at other hospitals and could not reach the Burbank location in a timely manner. He also filed reports stating he was at the hospital when he was not on site, according to the court records.
Pearsall's attorney, Joseph P. Furman, said that the cases were one-offs, and that his client had taken full responsibility.
"In this particular case, even one of the settlement judges said [Pearsall's] attitude and demeanor were refreshing," Furman said. "He quickly and immediately took full responsibility for his actions."
Furman attributed the terms of the probation to his client's candor and frankness when dealing with the accusations.
During one incident in 2007, nurses tried to contact Pearsall several times after a patient experienced increasingly painful contractions. He was not reachable until the next morning after multiple pages, calls to his house and even contacting his daughter.
The board found Pearsall's actions to represent an extreme departure from established standards and determined he should have performed the delivery the previous evening.
Pearsall's failure to also attend to or direct another doctor to cover another patient in a timely manner resulted in the delivery of newborn twins suffering from severe neonatal depression, according to court records.
Per the terms of the settlement agreement, Pearsall may not supervise physician assistants and submit declarations about his compliance. He must also meet with the probation unit and notify the proper agencies of his probation if he decides to leave California.
Any violations of the probation would place Pearsall's license, issued 37 years ago, in jeopardy.
"Usually doctors do follow the terms, or else they lose their license," said Jennifer Simoes, a spokeswoman for the Medical Board of California. "If they don't meet the conditions, it goes back to the court for a probation violation."
Pearsall is practicing gynecological medicine outside of the hospital setting, his attorney said.
"He's at a stage in his life when he does not want to be on call 24 hours a day," Furman said. "He has been very forthright about the situation with his present employer and has been judged safe to practice medicine."