Local doctors disciplined for alcohol and drug abuse
The NC Medical Board took disciplinary actions against 153 doctors and physician’s assistants in 2004, an increase from 103 disciplinary actions in 2003, according to a March 10 report by the licensing board.
One of those was a Greensboro doctor who surrendered his medical license after testing positive for alcohol. A summary report released by the Medical Board indicates that two Greensboro doctors surrendered their medical licenses and two entered into consent orders with the board in 2004 to resolve previous infractions.
Three other doctors who practice in Greensboro and High Point were granted extensions for temporary licenses or were reinstated after resolving previous infractions.
Dr. Jeffrey C. Hooper, a Greensboro family practice physician who is 40, surrendered his medical license in early 2004 after testing positive for alcohol. Hooper has participated in the NC Physicians Health Program since 1997 because of alcohol abuse, said Dale Breaden, a spokesman for the board. A consent order dated May 27, 2004 states that Hooper entered a residential treatment program. Four months later, the board issued Hooper a temporary medical license to practice medicine and surgery under certain restrictions.
In October, following his completion of his treatment program, the Medical Board approved a request by Dr. Hooper’s lawyer to allow the doctor to practice under the supervision of Dr. Jerome Davis of Greensboro, Dr. Thomas Brewer of Denton and Dr. Stuart Kossover of Randleman. The agreement allows Dr. Hooper to provide minor urgent care such as sewing up lacerations, but does not allow him to prescribe drugs.
The Medical Board granted Dr. Hooper a second temporary license on Jan. 20.
Dr. Edwin Farrell, a Greensboro physician whose specialty is listed as pediatrics on the Medical Board website, also surrendered his medical license last year. The website does not include documentation of why Dr. Farrell agreed to give up his license, and the doctor did not return a phone message requesting comment. However, an outgoing message for the phone number listed on his voluntary surrender form identifies a business called Adolescent Health Consultants.
Another Greensboro doctor, Robert Milton Gay, agreed to a consent order for unprofessional conduct related to a misdiagnosis, but was allowed to keep his license with a reprimand.
According to a Medical Board consent order Dr. Gay misread an esophageal biopsy for a 66-year old male patient in May 1999. The consent order states: ‘“Dr. Gay diagnosed esophageal cancer when no cancer was present, causing Patient A to undergo unnecessary surgery that resulted in extensive and life-threatening complications.’”
The consent order also states that Dr. Gay, who is 67, said he had difficulty reading the biopsy and should have consulted with another doctor.
The Medical Board’s 2004 summary report notes three cases in which Greensboro-area doctors and one in which a physician’s assistants were subject to ‘non-prejudicial actions,’ many of which involve issuing temporary or full licenses to medical professionals who have resolved previous infractions.
Two doctors employed at Battleground Urgent Care in Greensboro with histories of alcohol and drug abuse have had their medical licenses fully reinstated by the board.
Dr. Richard Alan Keever, whose specialty is the treatment of illness or injury to the nose, throat and ears, started drinking alcohol and taking hydrocodone drug samples provided by a drug company in 1995, according to Medical Board records. Dr. Keever surrendered his license in February 1997 and agreed to receive substance abuse treatment from a Catholic priest and counseling from a Charlotte-based treatment center. Dr. Keever received half a dozen temporary licenses from the board over the next two years before becoming fully reinstated in 2000. Less than two years later, Keever surrendered his license again. Board records indicate that he did so 10 days after High Point Regional Hospital suspended his hospital privileges due to evidence he had relapsed and was abusing drugs again.
Dr. Keever, who is now 63, spent about three months at Talbott Recovery Center in Atlanta to get treatment for alcohol and drug dependency from November 2001 through February 2002, according to the board records. In August 2002, the Medical found that Dr. Keever had tested negative for alcohol and drugs since his release from Talbott Recovery Center and agreed to issue him a temporary license. The board has renewed Dr. Keever’s temporary license each year since, and on Jan. 20 granted him a full and unrestricted license.
Dr. Keever could not be reached at Battleground Urgent Care on Monday, and a receptionist said she could not give out his home or mobile telephone numbers.
Dr. David T. Ward, whose specialty is surgery for trauma and deformities at Battleground Urgent Care, has battled similar demons.
A handwritten note from Dr. Ward dated Aug. 26, 1997 ‘— a period when he was practicing medicine in Winston-Salem ‘— states: ‘“I David T. Ward, MD’… have a problem with chemical dependency and for this reason I surrender my medical license out of treatment.’”
According to a consent order filed in February 1999, and signed by Dr. Ward and the president of the Medical Board, the doctor had problems with alcohol and cocaine.
‘“Dr. Ward has been unable to practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety to patients by reason of drunkenness, excessive use of alcohol, drugs [and] chemicals,’” the consent order states.
Dr. Ward, who is now 44, received three temporary licenses in a row after signing the consent order, and by January 2001 had been granted a full and unrestricted license. Yet, a little more than one year later, he surrendered his license again. The Medical Board has no public records that explain his decision to give up his license. Four months later, he was issued yet another temporary license, the first of three before the Medical Board again granted him a full and unrestricted license in April 2004.
It’s not clear whether Dr. Ward surrendered his license the second time for drug and alcohol abuse, or how he got his license back. Dena Marshall, a spokeswoman for the Medical Board said the information is confidential.
‘“The board, I’m assuming, reviewed his circumstances,’” she said. ‘“It’s really hard to say why or how his license was granted at the full and unrestricted status.’”
Dr. Ward did not return telephone calls for this story on Monday.
Dr. Richard M. DonDiego, who formerly practiced medicine in High Point, received a temporary license from the board on April 22, 2004. Dr. DonDiego’s license was placed in inactive status in May 2003 after he failed to register with the board.
Dr. DonDiego, who now practices internal medicine at DeChurch & Associates in Reidsville, said he didn’t register in time because a notification from the board wasn’t forwarded to his new mailing address at a time when he was experiencing health problems.
‘“I had five surgeries in a 10-month period,’” he said. ‘“It was a SNAFU that it went to the wrong address. Doctors work their whole lives and you learn to follow the rules.’”
He said he hopes to have his license fully reinstated, and has a hearing before the board scheduled for this week.
The Medical Board also terminated a consent order with Angela B. Ford, a 35-year old physician’s assistant who lives in Oak Ridge. The consent order had required Ford to submit to drug tests after she was caught filling out a prescription for the painkiller Oxycontin for herself at twice the dosage her doctor approved. The Medical Board stayed Ford’s suspended license as long as she agreed to drug testing and other conditions.
Ford’s Medical Board file states that she is not currently working. Calls to a telephone number listed under Ford’s name were not returned on March 11.
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