Moms and Babies at Risk
Giving birth is safer in California than in most of the country. And yet the San Joaquin Valley, and Kern County specifically, lag behind.
The county’s infant mortality rate is one of the highest in California – more than 50% higher than the state average. Mothers, too, die too often here: The Valley’s maternal mortality rate is the worst in California, more than 34% higher than the state average.
The Medical Board of California investigated one Bakersfield obstetrician following several infant and maternal deaths. The agency accused Dr. Arthur Park of gross negligence on three separate occasions. Twice, the agency revoked his license but stayed the revocation and placed him under probation. He continued practicing for more than 20 years after his first medical board investigation until voluntarily surrendering his license in late 2021.
This series by KVPR reporter Kerry Klein investigates why rates of pregnancy-related deaths are so high in Kern County and explores what’s being done about them. It also probes the systems that allowed a doctor accused multiple times of gross negligence to remain in practice and highlights the stories of people trying to reform those systems.
Kern County has one of the highest infant mortality rates in California and mothers die during pregnancy and childbirth in the San Joaquin Valley at a higher rate than in any other region of the state. Simultaneously, research shows that maternal mortality rates are rising among the country’s Latino population.
The medical board accused a Bakersfield OB-GYN of negligence. But he kept practicing for two decadesThe California medical board accused Bakersfield obstetrician Dr. Arthur Park of gross negligence following several patient deaths. But he kept his medical license for more than 20 years. How did the medical and legal systems allow that to happen?
By the time OB-GYN Dr. Arthur Park surrendered his license in late 2021, all four of Bakersfield’s hospitals had been sued by patients of his, and at least two had paid out settlements. One, Mercy Hospital Southwest, was also found to have made errors in the days leading up to the death of one of his patients.
After her daughter and grandson died following what the Medical Board of California alleged to be negligent care from a Bakersfield OB-GYN, Tracy Dominguez embarked on a crusade to reform the agency and prevent other patients from experiencing similar tragedies.
Kerry Klein’s reporting on infant and maternal mortality in Kern County and Bakersfield OB-GYN Dr. Arthur Park began with an email from the Medical Board of California in 2019.