Hands Off

Regina Linares was a veteran SVMH employee when, during a heart procedure, colleagues say they witnessed a doctor grope her.

A Salinas cardiologist pleaded no contest on Aug. 29 to a single misdemeanor count that he groped a patient who was sedated and undergoing a procedure at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital.

In exchange for the plea to a count of committing a lewd act in public, physician Robert Wlodarczyk permanently surrendered his license to practice medicine.

Monterey County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wills declined to place Wlodarczyk on formal probation, saying that “formal probation is highly unusual for a misdemeanor.”

“It would put an extra burden on the probation department which as you know has a massive caseload,” Wills said. “The court is perfectly capable of supervising it.”

Instead, Wlodarczyk was placed on three years informal probation, fined $1,000 and ordered to have no contact with the victim for 10 years. Wlodarczyk will not have to register as a sex offender.

The Weekly does not normally name victims of sex crimes, but in this case, the victim has asked that her name be used.

Regina Linares was an administrative secretary in the perioperative services department at SVMH when, in October 2016, she began experiencing chest pains and shortness of breath, stemming from a hereditary condition. She was admitted through the emergency room and underwent a procedure in the cath lab.

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She was given anesthesia drugs – fentanyl, an opioid painkiller, and versed, a sedative that lessens anxiety and also causes the temporary loss of ability to make new memories. After the procedure, she was sent home.

On Nov. 7, 2016, she received a phone call at home from Lea Woodrow, SVMH’s senior administrative director of risk management. According to Linares, Woodrow was calling to tell her that the staff present in the cath lab filed a report stating they had witnessed Wlodarczyk place his hands on her breasts – not a necessary part of medical care – during the procedure.

Linares addressed Wlodarczyk during the sentencing hearing, telling him he’d ruined her career and taken her livelihood.

“You’ve reduced me to a woman who lives in fear,” she said. “I am fearful when going to doctors now and I never used to be. My trust for physicians has been reduced to zero. I feel you should be on the (sex offender’s) list with the other predators.”

SVMH spokesperson Karina Rusk says Wlodarczyk hasn’t had privileges at the hospital since July 12 and has not seen patients there or at any SVMH facility. Wlodarczyk’s attorney, Thomas Griffin, did not return a call requesting comment.

Linares has also filed a lawsuit against Wlodarczyk and SVMH. A trial date is set for September 2019.

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