Kooshian Coup?

Controversial AIDS doctor hopes to control countys public HIV programs

"Multiple providers with equal or greater experience and capacity have been identified," wrote Helberg. "Consequently, this excludes Dr. Kooshian's medical practice from consideration."

Despite the apparent setback for Kooshian, numerous key Orange County health-care experts—including other local AIDS physicians—are frustrated that the HIV council is not obeying its stated policy of "open, honest" communication with the public. They say county records confirm that Kooshian was given special treatment. Not only was he the only HIV doctor permitted to bid on the privatization plan, but he was also the lone HIV doctor informed of the county's plans.

One observer had a two-word explanation for Kooshian's peculiar insider access: "Ron Viramontes."

"It doesn't take a genius to figure out that something stinks here," said one HIV expert. "Most everything is being done behind-the-scenes with very little public disclosure or debate. It's like they don't want anyone to know what is going on."

Last year, Virgil Opinion—Kooshian's longtime nurse—quit and notified Bryan Noble, a former Kooshian AIDS patient, that the doctor had secretly fed him fake injections instead of the intravenous immunoglobulin he was prescribed. Two civil lawsuits arose and revealed additional allegations that the doctor also sold worthless, expired drugs and gave other unsuspecting patients suboptimal doses of expensive, critical drugs.

The doctor and his lawyers have strenuously denied wrongdoing. Under oath during an April deposition, however, Kooshian—who was arrested 11 years ago by Newport Beach police for illegally selling steroids to individuals who were not his patients—conceded his role in the bogus shots scheme.

In a July "paid advertisement" in The Blade, a local gay publication that counts the doctor among its top advertisers, Kooshian flip-flopped again and denied he made any admission of wrongdoing during the deposition. (Court records obtained by the Weekly contradict Kooshian's latest version of events.) In the ad, he described himself as "a concerned and caring physician" who has been victimized by "unethical and inappropriate" reporting. Both lawsuits against the doctor are ongoing.

Despite repeated attempts to interview Kooshian and Viramontes for this story, neither cooperated.

(Past articles about this controversy can be seen in online archives at www.ocweekly.com; type "Kooshian" in the search engine.)

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