A doctor who once worked for a Fremont, California, medical clinic contracted to treat injured workers at Tesla’s nearby factory has just lost his medical license.
Dr. Muhannad Hafi—who was employed by a small medical company called Access Omnicare until at least January 2018—was found to have sexually fondled two female patients in 2014 and 2016 when he worked at two other medical clinics.
However, the revocation of Hafi’s medical license raises questions about the practices of Access Omnicare, which Tesla selected to oversee its on-site clinic since June 2018. Prior to that, Access Omnicare was contracted to see and treat injured Tesla factory workers off-site at its local Fremont office.
The Medical Board of California began proceedings against Hafi in November 2017, yet he continued at Access Omnicare until at least January 2018.
While Hafi’s license was revoked late last month, it only became widely known when PlainSite, a legal-document transparency site, published the court order on Tuesday.
On Tuesday afternoon, Ars called the Fremont offices of Access Omnicare. A woman named Alissa answered the phone and said: “I’m sorry, I can’t answer any questions,” when we asked when Hafi worked there and whether the clinic knew that his license had been suspended.
Last month, Reveal News published a lengthy story exploring the lengths that Tesla seemingly would go to avoid proper medical care for injured factory workers.
Per Reveal, a Tesla worker named Bill Casillas was initially diagnosed with electrical exposure. However, two months after the injury, Hafi “stepped in and dismissed the injury,” writing in a published medical file that Casillas in fact “does not have an industrial injury attributed to an electrical current.”
The 25-page court filing from October 2018 describes the case of the first woman, referred to in state filings as “Patient 1.” She saw Hafi for a lap-band adjustment in 2014. However, he quickly asked her to lift her shirt, revealing her bra, then went further and exposed her breasts—the woman wondered if he was performing a breast exam that she had not asked for.
Eventually, the woman left and was disgusted at what happened, and she reported the incident to the Fremont Police Department. Within weeks, Hafi was terminated from that clinic, and he was eventually prosecuted for misconduct and was acquitted on the criminal charges.
Two years later, in August 2016, another woman (“Patient 2”) had a similar experience at a different facility in San Leandro, just a few miles north of Fremont. She had gone in for a pre-employment physical exam. Hafi told the woman that she “looked good,” approached her, and brushed his erect penis under his pants against her leg. She steeled herself through the exam, as she needed it for work. When the ordeal was finally over, she reported the incident to the urgent care clinic’s staff, who took her seriously. Eventually, she also went to the San Leandro police but did not press charges. Patient 2 did file a civil lawsuit, which remains pending.
After the earlier accusations, which were made to local police at the time, Hafi was quickly fired by those clinics. It is not immediately clear when or why he was hired by Access Omnicare, but documents show that he worked there until at least January 2018, three months after the California medical board began its investigation.
In an earnings call in October 2018, a top Tesla vice president, Laurie Shelby, trumpeted to reporters and investors that the company had opened a “new and improved health clinic” on Tesla’s campus, which is still managed by Access Omnicare.
“So when injuries do occur, we get the absolute best care for our associates, and it’s actually overseen by one of California’s leading orthopedic surgeons,” she said.
After that call with investors, Shelby described the on-site clinic as being on the “cutting edge in the field of workplace health.”
Caroline Nolan, the director of communications at Tesla, told Ars on Tuesday that Hafi never worked for Tesla’s on-site clinic and referred further questions to Access Omnicare.
Tesla would neither answer as to whether it still had confidence in Access Omnicare nor how it selected Access Omnicare as its medical provider to begin with. Instead, the company provided Ars with a previously released November 2018 statement issued by its Access Omnicare’s owner, Dr. Basil Besh. In that statement, which responded to the Reveal story, Besh concluded: “Instead of highlighting the tremendous progress being made in both patient safety and patient care at Tesla, this report uses poor sourcing to tell a story consistent with a predetermined agenda.”
Besh did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.
Late Tuesday evening, Nolan sent Ars a statement from Besh about Hafi, noting that Hafi left Access Omnicare in early June 2018.
“He was employed by another occupational medical clinic at the time of his hire and during his employment at Access Omnicare,” the statement continued. “We were aware of the at-the-time unsubstantiated allegations, which Dr. Hafi vehemently denied. Appropriate safeguards are always in place at Access Omnicare with all medical visits staffed with both a provider and another medical staff member.”
It is not clear what is meant by “safeguards,” given that the medical board makes no mention of “another medical staff member” who was in the presence of Hafi while he acted inappropriately in front of his accusers.