A LETTER TO MY PRECIOUS PATIENTS
To many of you who have allowed me to care for you over the years, you were probably as shocked as I was to hear via the television news that my medical license had been temporarily suspended by the Texas Medical Board… for reasons that are unclear to me and contain several misrepresentations. I am in Santa Fe for a few days… relief from the Texas heat; I have yet to be notified by the board concerning their astonishing move against me.
As wonderfully supportive as my family and staff have been, including colleagues from my previous practice at Tyler Obstetrics & Gynecology, LLP, my patients are my overriding concern. After all, it is you who over the years have entrusted your care to me. You can be assured that any issues I have had in the political arena in this community and the state of Texas have never compromised any patient care, whatsoever. The motivation of one or a few persons to destroy me still eludes me. Nevertheless, it is your well-being that I hold in sacred trust and that I have always honored.
Moving into a solo practice situation has been good for me and has made most of my patients and staff much happier. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) however, has put forth a multitude of regulations recently that make it very difficult for solo practitioners to continue to serve their patients. In fact, one poll indicates that one third of the internists in Florida over age 50 are going to retire in the next two years. In fact, retiring from practice is my intention as well. I had not shared this yet with my staff or patients, but today is as good a time as ever.
I have enjoyed patient care in Tyler for 32 years. I have always counted it a privilege despite years of education and long hours away from family. Deeming my profession as a ministry of God I have done my best to allot some of my abilities to those less fortunate. As you have shared your lives with me, I have seen your children grow, listened to your hurts and fears, and have been made to feel a part of your families. I assure you that I have always tried to do my best in taking care of each of you.
A member of my former staff reported to one of my former colleagues and partners that I, on New Year's Eve, my final day to work with them at Tyler OBGYN, had a few sips of a cocktail (ordered without my knowledge and before my arrival at the restaurant by this staff person). I knew I had patients to see in the office that afternoon, and was not comfortable with "downing" an alcoholic beverage before returning to work. Considering that as inappropriate, this is something I had never done!
A week later, Mother Frances Hospital suspended me from their staff. Before the two-week suspension became permanent, I resigned my staff privileges. Wanting to avoid the bureaucratic nightmare I envisioned and desiring to limit my practice somewhat in my later years, this move, according to legal counsel, would also avoid reporting to the Texas Medical Board and the National DataBank.
Even though a former partner took it upon himself to report this lunch event to the Medical Executive Committee at Mother Frances and then to ETMC, it was only ETMC who did an investigation to ensure that my overall behavior had no impact on patient care. Their conclusion was to allow me to continue to work on their staff. Mother Frances did no investigation at all (or I feel certain would have arrived at the same conclusion as ETMC did); they did not review patient records or talk with nurses and other staff that I worked with. They had no reason to fear for their patients under my care. Moreover, the "hearsay" event had nothing to do with Mother Frances, as I did not set foot in their facility on that day; their vindictive efforts were not based on concern for patient care, but more likely, retaliation for my leaving their staff. After all, at one time I was a top-tier admitting physician to their facility and had performed more robotic hysterectomies than any other gynecologist (taking that "business" to ETMC and their new DaVinci robot). Moreover, I had proctored other gynecologists as they learned to use the DaVinci, requesting no compensation in return.
As Mother Frances reported the incident to the Texas Medical Board despite having "no skin in the game" and no evidence of compromised patient care, I was required to participate in a medical board program that includes periodic urine testing for controlled substances. None of these results has ever been conveyed to me and I presumed them to be normal. Last week, after persistent inquiry, I learned of a problem that showed up (actually a metabolite of a medication prescribed to me by my personal physician, and which they should have been aware). Based on that finding, I presume they made their decision. They did not ask questions of me or my doctor…nor did they talk to patients or staff. Their motivation is absolutely perplexing to me and to my trusted colleagues.
I am forbidden by law to see patients this week, until this can be resolved. Please know that I have a registered nurse on staff, Cindy Booker, R.N., who can help you with most problems during this dreadful ordeal. I pledge to you to return to work as soon as possible. I have obtained counsel in Austin from an attorney who deals with these issues commonly and feels this can be readily resolved.
Your loyalty and messages leave me speechless. Not even in dealing with my surgery for cancer seven years ago have I experienced such an outpouring of love and support from so many of you. Along with you, my wonderful family and church family, an awesome God, good counsel from Dr. Bill Rogers and my attorney, I intend to hold my head high and assure all who love me that taking good care of patients has always been and will continue to be my ultimate aspiration.