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State's case against negligent doctor falls apart

New York residents who are dealing with mental illness themselves or with mentally ill friends and family expect to place a certain amount of trust in behavioral health staff. In another state, a case against a psychiatrist alleges doctor negligence and unprofessional conduct. Complaints include that the doctor made medication errors and ignored the needs of a pediatric patient.

After a record-breaking four years of litigation, though, the state's case has been resolved in a way that is favorable to the doctor. The psychiatrist in question treats many patients in the state. In 2011, the doctor was the highest biller to Medicare in his niche, with over $2.4 million in prescription claims. In the same year, he came in second for the number of prescriptions billed to the federal insurer. According to data, the psychiatrist filed an average of over 300 claims each week.

The state board moved to discipline the doctor for what they called unprofessional conduct. An Administrative Hearing Commission discounted most of the charges against the physician. They did reprimand the doctor for failing to complete employment applications properly. Apparently, the doctor left off some hospital affiliations when applying to two facilities.

The doctor's brother, who is a lawyer and defended him against the board's allegations, is filing a lawsuit seeking reimbursement of over half a million dollars in legal fees from the state. The attorney states the board didn't have a case, and accused the state of retaliating because his brother called attention to what he considered questionable Medicaid bed allocation practices in 2010.

The doctor in this case has a history of settling issues before receiving public discipline. He resigned from one hospital instead of receiving discipline for undisclosed actions.

New York residents seeking mental health care should ask questions and seek solid referrals from medical staff and experts. Those with loved ones in any medical system should educate themselves and follow progress closely. Although most medical staff is caring and diligent, mistakes do occur and when family members are involved, those mistakes can often be caught and addressed through medical or legal means.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Psychiatrist is reprimanded after four-year board inquiry" Jeremy Kohler, Dec. 23, 2013

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