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State Investigating Prison Psychiatrist Who Made $800,000 Last Year

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SOLEDAD (AP) – A California prison psychiatrist who was paid more than $800,000 last year is under investigation and suspended amid allegations that time records were falsified, it was reported Wednesday.

Dr. Mohammad Safi’s pay in 2011 included more than $503,000 in on-call pay to make sure he was available to respond quickly to emergencies, the San Jose Mercury News said.

Safi, 54, is a supervising senior psychiatrist at a Department of State Hospitals facility within Salinas Valley State Prison in Monterey County. He lives in Newark, about 43 miles from the prison.

Safi was suspended in July with pay. His lawyer, Edward Caden, said Safi was forced to volunteer for many on-call shifts when others refused.

“He was the manager,” Caden said. “He had to do it.”

The lawyer also said the state didn’t build required housing for doctors to stay overnight at the Soledad facility.

Safi, who earns about $130 an hour, became a scapegoat for a staffing crisis, even though every time sheet submitted was approved by his supervisor, the lawyer said.

Kathy Gaither, the state hospitals’ chief deputy director, confirmed the suspension and said the investigation should wrap up soon.

A 2011 analysis by the newspaper of the 370-bed psychiatric hospital at the prison showed the five people Safi supervised were each paid an average of $313,000 annually.

Records also showed that 21 doctors with Safi’s title of supervising chief psychiatrist working at other state prisons in 2011 averaged about $283,000 in pay.

Safi has an unblemished disciplinary record with the California Medical Board.

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