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Highly paid prison doctor cleared to see patients

August 1, 2011 |  5:03 pm

Jeffrey Rohlfing, a prison doctor who was paid more than $777,000 in 2010 despite not having treated a patient for six years because of alleged incompetence, was cleared to start examining inmates again Monday.

"He has been granted privileges to see patients," said Nancy Kincaid, spokeswoman for the federal receiver overseeing California's troubled prison health system. "In a non-emergency setting," she added.

Rohlfing has not treated an inmate since fellow prison doctors revoked his clinical privileges in 2005 after finding his care for two patients who showed signs of heart trouble to be "significantly substandard." Although neither patient died or suffered lasting harm, Rohlfing was placed on paid leave for 18 months, then fired in 2007.

But the State Personnel board ordered Rohlfing, who has a history of serious psychiatric problems, reinstated in late 2009 with back pay for the years he spent appealing his termination.

Upon his return to work, prison medical staff still didn't trust him with patients, so he spent 2010 and most of this year relegated to reviewing paper medical histories -- what fellow prison doctors call "mailroom" duty. He was also enrolled in a retraining program for troubled doctors designed to let other physicians evaluate their clinical skills.

In 2010 he collected a total of $777,423. About a third of that was his base salary of $235,740; the rest was back pay.

The impressive grand total means Rohlfing took home more than any of the other 328,000 employees working for a state agency or the California State University system in 2010. A few University of California employees –- including Berkeley's head football coach –- were paid more.

Neither Rohlfing nor his attorney could be reached for comment Monday afternoon.


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Photo: Inmates at the Solana State Prison in Vacaville, Calif. Credit:  California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation