An anesthesiologist with staff privileges at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital who was arrested in Chico last week on suspicion of sexual assault is free on bail, according to authorities. He retains his hospital privileges, according to Hazel Hawkins.
Dr. Annamalai Ashokan was arrested Jan. 30 after a “lengthy investigation” at his Chico office on Jan Court, reads a press release from the Chico Police Department.
He was arrested after a female patient told police that the doctor sexually assaulted her during a medical procedure in Chico.
Ashokan was released from jail on $25,000 bail shortly after his arrest, and is scheduled for an arraignment hearing in early March, according to Butte County Deputy District Attorney Matt Taylor.
Although Ashokan has not yet been charged, Taylor expects the DA’s office will charge him with felony sexual battery prior to his arraignment hearing. The maximum sentence for such a charge is four years in prison.
Prosecutors are still in the process of gathering information about the case from the police department, Taylor said on Friday, Feb. 8.
The press release from Chico Police said investigators do not suspect there are other victims “at this point.” Detectives are in contact with investigators from the State of California’s Division of Investigation Health Quality Investigation Unit, which oversees medical licensing investigations.
At time of his arrest, Ashokan had office hours in Chico one day a week, but was based in Hollister.
In Chico, Ashokan maintained a private practice at Skyway Surgery Center. He specializes in pain management at both his Chico and Hollister offices. His Hollister office is listed as Monterey Pain Treatment, is located at 581 McCray St. and he also is listed with the Pacific Pain Treatment Center, 930 Sunnyslope Rd., in Hollister.
Ashokan is a 1979 graduate of Bangalore University, Bangalore Medical College, according to his profile on the Medical Board of California website.
The arrest is not the doctor’s first brush with authorities. In 2000, he pleaded no contest in San Benito County to misdemeanor sexual exploitation of a patient/client, a violation of the state Business and Professions Code, reads a complaint against him found on the Medical Board’s website.
Subsequently, the Medical Board took administrative action against Ashokan and accused him of sexual misconduct, gross negligence and dishonest and corrupt acts, the Medical Board’s 2001 complaint states. These accusations stem from Ashokan initiating a sexual relationship with a female patient in 1999. The patient had told Ashokan that she had been depressed, suffering from chronic pain and under the care of a psychiatrist before Ashokan allegedly initiated intimate physical contact with her.
The Medical Board placed Ashokan on probation for five years as a result of the misconduct, reads the 2001 complaint. The probationary term ended in 2006.
Hazel Hawkins spokeswoman Frankie Gallagher said the Hollister hospital “cannot sanction someone based on allegations” that haven’t yet been ruled on by a court of law or the state Medical Board. “Once there is a ruling from the medical board or a judicial ruling, we will act appropriately based on the allegations.”
Asked if the hospital was aware of Ashokan’s previous professional discipline, Gallagher said it was. “At that time, we acted appropriately based on the guidelines of the medical board and his probation,” she said.
Ashokan has been a physician affiliated at Hazel Hawkins for about 25 years. His doctor’s license is currently not restricted by the medical board or any other authorities.
Gallagher further clarified in a statement that Hazel Hawkins does not directly employ or contract with Ashokan, and the doctor does not provide anesthesia services to surgical patients at the local hospital. “Dr. Ashokan maintains his own private practice and holds current medical staff privileges at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital to provide pain management services at the hospital to patients from his private practice,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher further emphasized that the recent allegations did not occur at Hazel Hawkins.
“Protecting patient safety is the top priority of the hospital board and the medical staff, and all appropriate measures are in place to ensure the safety and well-being of our patients,” Gallagher said in a statement.