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Of the tens of thousands of veterinarians practicing in the United States, there are too many who are incompetent, careless or both. Others fail to deliver adequate care because their singular focus on profits makes them unwilling to pay for qualified employees, equipment, supplies, etc. 

 
Then there are those "ethically challenged" veterinarians whose obsession for making as much money as possible leads to
If that's not enough to scare you, there's the matter of the 'secrecy' amongst veterinarians themselves where entirely too many of them keep silent about what their colleagues have done: an apparently unwritten code of "don't know and don't tell" which would make an old-time alleged 'Mafia Don' proud. 
 
Unnecessary deaths and suffering are commonplace, and the very entities [the state vet boards] whose alleged 'mission' is to protect the public from this sort of unethical behavior [at taxpayer expense] are not effective in protecting anyone OTHER than the very veterinarians who should not be practicing and so the  "bad vets"  are allowed to continue to cause grevious harm to the animals and the public, aided and abetted by their silent colleagues, the state veterinarian boards, and yes, even the FDA/CVM who continue to allow deadly drugs to be marketed to the public in exchange for substantial annual 'user fees'. There is a serious need for accountability in all of these areas.

Most states have boards which are charged by "law" with the responsibility of protecting you and your animals through enforcement of state laws governing the practice of veterinary medicine. But until those bodies are effective enough to get the "bad vets" out of the profession by actually practicing their alleged "mission" of protecting the public instead of protecting those  "bad vets" who are in the profession, the only alternative is to avoid the "bad vets" by your own efforts,  report them to your state vet board and don't stop screaming your face off about what they've done and tried to get covered up.
 
The following is the still on-going story about one very brave and determined lady who decided this disgraceful policy of 'secrecy' was and is not in the interest of the public and is doing something positive and constructive about it through legislation.
 

Forward from Marcia Rosenberg
 
The articles printed below tell much of the story about Pumpkin and me.  The story continues.  As of the writing of this (October 25, 2004), I am still working for reform of the veterinary laws in South Carolina so that similar situations will never occur again.  I firmly believe that if there was more public disclosure, the standard of care that veterinarians provide to our animals would go up dramatically.  Veterinarians would understand that the public would get to know about complaints filed against them.  Hence, there would be fewer “shortcuts”; more careful diagnoses; more advice on possible adverse reactions or side effects; better monitoring, etc. 

 

One of the most important things to come out of all this is to show that one ordinary person can make a big difference.  I just kept at it, taking little steps along the way, and succeeded in seeing an incompetent/negligent veterinarian have his license suspended, then revoked, and forced the South Carolina Veterinary Board to change various policies to provide increased protection for the public.  If you are a victim, do something about it.  Fight back.  For comments or questions -- mokayaker@msn.com.

 

PUMPKIN in ACTION!

6/06/05: http://thedogplace.com/library/MRosenberg-SC_Vet_Coverup.htm
 
More information and links:
Background article:  http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/3705742.htm
 
Dr. Gorlitsky's agreement to relinquish his license:  http://www.llr.state.sc.us/POL/Veterinary/Orders/2004July%20GorlitskyS.pdf
 
Editorial from The State (Columbia, SC) about the need for the legislation:  http://www.thestate.com/mld/state/news/opinion/9314436.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
 
DVM Newsmagazine article when the vet board was supporting public disclosure:  http://www.dvmnewsmagazine.com/dvm/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=110690

  Posted on Thu, Jun. 16, 2005

from: http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/

 

Openness just one change needed in discipline law

LAWMAKERS ARE TO be commended for creating a bit of public oversight of the state’s system for disciplining physicians.

The new law, which will allow the public to review nearly all the complaints that the Board of Medical Examiners determines to be worth pursuing, should reassure the public that the board isn’t just sweeping allegations under the rug to protect the profession. Just as importantly, it should prevent administrative law judges from slamming the records shut on such cases after the board deliberately opened them, as they have in two recent high-profile cases.

But neither the Legislature nor the public should pretend that the matter is fully resolved.

For one thing, doctors aren’t the only professionals who have gotten the benefit of a state licensing system without having to pay the modest price of public oversight. Now that physicians have joined lawyers in having their discipline system opened to some public review, it should be painfully clear even to the most ardent advocates of secrecy that there is no legitimate reason to lock the public out of the disciplinary system for veterinarians and real estate agents and cosmetologists and far too many other licensed professionals.

Of more immediate concern, though, since physicians have the greatest potential effect on our lives, is that this new law doesn’t address all the problems with the doctor discipline system.

A recent study that ranked South Carolina’s physician discipline system the 43rd least effective in the country was based on an odd assumption — that a low number of doctors disciplined automatically means a flawed system, rather than a low number of doctors who are doing a bad job. But its overall conclusion was on point: Our system doesn’t work as well as it should.

Ironically, the target of its criticism — the Board of Medical Examiners — has been at the fore in calling for changes to make the system work better.

This spring, the board asked the Legislature to change state law to make it more likely that its disciplinary actions won’t be overturned by courts and to open more of those activities to the public. Lawmakers rushed to embrace a quick-and-dirty version of the openness rules. But they refused to sign off on more precise definitions and procedures that should keep judges from overturning the board’s disciplinary actions, as has happened in two notorious cases in the past year. Those changes are every bit as important as the sunshine provisions.

A news article about the new openness law reported that lawmakers “have said that more disclosure for the medical profession is part of the public accountability that comes with state regulations.” We agree wholeheartedly, and would like to see even more than this law allows. But at least we should be able to expect this minimal amount of public information from all professional licensing boards.

And it’s not too much to ask that lawmakers would give these licensing boards the tools to make their decisions stick. That’s something they apparently don’t have now, thanks to antiquated laws that were written as much to protect the professions from competition as to protect the public from harm. It should be at the top of legislators’ agenda when they return to work next year.


 from: http://www.dvmnewsmagazine.com/dvm/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=162219&&pageID=1

"dvm" the Newsmagazine of Veterinary Medicine
S.C. ponders semi-public discipline hearings
 
Practice act revision expected to pass this year
DVM Newsmagazine
COLUMBIA, S.C.—Revisions to South Carolina's practice act would allow plaintiffs to attend disciplinary hearings. A public push for open-hearings led to the compromise that could update the law for the first time in 30 years.

HB3615 and SB499, initiated by the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners and supported by the South Carolina Association of Veterinarians (SCAV), eliminated previous proposed text that would allow all veterinary disciplinary hearings to be made public.

In the new version, only those who file a formal complaint deemed worthy of a hearing will be permitted to attend the hearing.

This is only a piece of the vast practice act, but is getting the most recognition due to its controversy.

Text declaring the practice of veterinary medicine to involve public health, safety and welfare was eliminated from the amendments along with citations saying the public is to be protected against incompetent practitioners.

For the first-time, the new bills would allow those who file formal complaints with the board to attend the hearing, making, making the way complaints are governed a more predominate feature than making hearings more public.

The individual who filed a complaint, could not participate in the hearing and could not discuss the case with anyone, essentially installing a gag order on any person who makes a formal complaint.

Critics contend the rule doesn't go far enough, and it treads on the first amendment. It also nulls the legislative declaration of purpose that designates DVMs as public servants.

"It would be more difficult for a person to be allowed to attend, and not speak than it would be to not go at all," says Marcia Rosenberg, a private citizen and independent lobbyist driving the initial legislation. "The board and SCAV is so anxious to get a new act that they just compromised on the most important part of last year's legislation."

The board has been working on the updates to the state's practice act for about six years.

"Almost 30 years without updating the practice act is a long time," says Dr. Valerie Alexander, immediate past chair of the board. "A lot of people came together, and they all had different ideas of what the bill should look like. It was not easy getting to the point we are at now."

Ins and outs
Rosenberg says the new bill does not protect the public. She urges politicians to revert to the language in last year's proposed legislation, which opened all documents filed in a proceeding at the time an answer to the formal complaint is filed. This concept was agreed upon last session by the veterinary board and SCAV.

"This bill is not perfect, but it's the best we can come up with," says Rep. Tom Dantzler, DVM. "The bill addresses many veterinary issues, and I don't think anyone will ever be 100-percent happy with the outcome."

The bill:

  • includes a definition for the investigative review committee,
  • revises procedures on conducting hearings,
  • provides for licensure by endorsement,
  • authorizes student preceptor programs,
  • provides procedures for veterinarians in the case of animal abandonment in their clinic,
  • allows a lien on an animal when payment for care is not made
  • establishes standards for emergency veterinary care facilities.

"The best part of the bill is that it invites the person making the complaint into the hearing so they can see that their issue is being addressed adequately," Alexander says.

State Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, introduced two new amendments to the Senate bill that would add public disclosure and an additional consumer member to the veterinary board.

"There are so many good points to this legislation and as always, it's a matter of compromise in these situations," says H. Kelley Jones, SCAV executive director. "The bill is largely the same as what we proposed last year. The differences are that disciplinary action fines will be increased from $500 to $1,000 instead of $2,000 and the section that is getting all of the attention that doesn't make the hearing public to everyone."

Sen. Dan Verdin, R-Laurens, the culprit for stalling the bill last year via filibuster, says although the bill continues to change, he largely supports it.

"I did not think it was fair to veterinarians to have every complaint made public before the board made a (final) decision," Verdin says. "It's not helping the public either giving them incomplete information."

Only complaints the board agrees to hear after research by the Investigative Review Committee would be made public.

"All frivolous and trivial complaints not warranting a hearing would not be made public—eliminating concern for good veterinarians being wrongfully villainized," Rosenberg says. Jones says the bill has a good chance of passing this year, and the board and SCAV is content with the legislation if it was made into law in its current form.


 UPDATE:  5/30/05
 

Posted on Mon, May. 30, 2005

from: http://www.thestate.com



‘Sunshine’ bills aim to protect patients
Legislation to better inform public about questionable doctors, vets faces tough road


Two bills that would allow the public to know more about questionable doctors and veterinarians are finding the going bumpy during the Legislature’s waning days.

Provisions in both bills would make public the existence of serious charges against practitioners. The let-the-sunshine-in proposals grew out of instances of practitioners accused of killing or maiming pets and human patients.

One bill — to give the public notice of serious charges against doctors — has a chance of passing, supporters say

The second bill, which would allow the public to learn about serious charges against veterinarians, is in danger of being scuttled by state Sen. Danny Verdin, R-Laurens, other senators say.

Verdin, whose father is a veterinarian, said last week that he is trying to reach a compromise on the vet bill and didn’t want to discuss it. However, other senators said Verdin is using a senatorial privilege that allows a single senator to indefinitely delay a bill.

Verdin denied that in an e-mail to The State.

“I could hardly be characterized as holding up the bill,” he wrote. “I have been working harder for its passage than anyone. I am hopeful that language suitable to all interested parties will be agreed upon and adopted before we adjourn next week.”

Verdin’s claim of support for the bill brought a chuckle from state Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley.

“He (Verdin) is trying to get it passed, but without any sunshine provisions in it,” Grooms said. “He would rather it not pass if it has openness and disclosure like I want.”

The version of the vet bill that Verdin backs also includes a provision that would gag a citizen who has filed a complaint about a vet from telling friends and neighbors.

The sunshine provisions in both bills are aimed at bringing South Carolina out of the “dark ages” when it comes to learning about potentially dangerous doctors and vets, said Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg. “Openness protects everybody and allows people to make conscientious decisions based on full knowledge.”

Hutto said frivolous complaints against practitioners would not be made public under the proposals. Only after an investigation found the complaint to be serious and the accused doctor replied, if he or she wishes, would the complaint and notice of a disciplinary proceeding be made public, he said. (The hearing would be a full airing of the charges. Its finding also would be made public.)

Two regulatory boards oversee doctors and veterinarians — the S.C. Board of Medical Examiners and the S.C. Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. But critics say the secrecy that often veils their actions protects questionable doctors and vets and, in some cases, harms the public.

For example, the S.C. Board of Medical Examiners last year kept secret a complaint that a patient had died after treatments by Dr. James Shortt. Richland County coroner Gary Watts ruled Katherine Bibeau had died as a result of injections of hydrogen peroxide administered under Shortt’s direction.

In mid-April, the medical examiners board temporarily suspended Shortt’s license to practice medicine.

During most of the time between the complaint and its action, the board kept secret the allegations against Shortt, even after The State newspaper and other news groups alerted the public to questions about Shortt.

Meanwhile, it took years for the Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners to take action against Stan Gorlitsky, a Mount Pleasant veterinarian accused of killing and maiming pets in South Carolina and Ohio. Last year, the board reached an agreement with Gorlitsky, allowing him to retire.

While the vet board kept the public in the dark, The State newspaper and Marcia Rosenberg of Mount Pleasant made public Gorlitsky’s questionable history.

Rosenberg said Friday that she’s unhappy that complaints against doctors and veterinarians could be treated differently.

“If complaints against doctors are going to be made public, is there any reason why veterinarians should not have the same legislation?” she asked.



 
 
ARTICLE #1:
 
from: http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/3705742.htm

Posted on Sun, Jul. 21, 2002

 

Secret system hides concerns on S.C. veterinary care


Woman finds Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners lacking in its charge to protect animals



Staff Writer

MOUNT PLEASANT - Pumpkin the kitten was in grave danger.

A veterinarian had mishandled Pumpkin's spaying and follow-up care. The kitten's internal stitches were loosening, and her intestines were leaking.

Pumpkin's owner, Marcia Rosenberg, got another vet to save her kitten.

Then she filed a complaint with the S.C. Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. Under state law, the board investigates complaints against veterinarians and can take disciplinary action.

Rosenberg thought it an easy case - the evidence was clear, and the second veterinarian was willing to testify. Moreover, the first veterinarian had a documented history of pets dying after mishandled operations.

But with the Veterinary Board - its eight members are seven veterinarians and one layman - things are rarely easy or clear.

"I compare the Vet Board with the Enrons of the world in their lack of openness and unaccountability," said Rosenberg. "Everyone up to President Bush is saying this lack of corporate accountability has to stop, and I'm saying the Vet Board has to stop."

Rosenberg found the board often keeps citizens in the dark, holding secret hearings from which the public is excluded. The board also issues secret reprimands to veterinarians that the public never learns about. Only the most serious disciplinary orders are made public. And the board can take up to a year to act, during which citizens wonder what the agency is doing.

That secrecy shocked Rosenberg, 54, who has had two dozen pets since childhood, beginning with a French poodle named Jolie. She couldn't imagine a government agency charged with protecting pets that moved so slowly.

To Rosenberg, pets and humans have a special, loving relationship.

"I was the kind of child who took milk out to the garage and gave it to stray cats. I was always nursing birds with broken wings," said Rosenberg.

The board's slowness, and its ultimate decision to give Pumpkin's veterinarian what Rosenberg thought was a light penalty, changed her life.

Never an activist, she's now on an almost full-time crusade to open up the workings of the S.C. Veterinary Board to the public and make it tougher on incompetent vets.

In the process, she's accumulated boxes of data on veterinarians and vet laws, and become a pet safety advocate. Since last year, she has made a dozen trips to Columbia, attending Veterinary Board meetings and talking with government officials to push for more openness. She makes the four-hour round trip to Columbia with her husband, Marvin, a retired corporate attorney, whom she praises for his support.

Lawmakers respect her.

"Marcia Rosenberg is the voice for all the folks across South Carolina who feel they didn't receive a high level of care from their vet," said Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston.

Rosenberg's got results. She has:

• Persuaded the Veterinary Board to post its public disciplinary actions on its Internet Web site;

• Picked up support from state lawmakers who will introduce a bill next session to open the Board's discipline process;

• Won respect from the governor's office, including Rita McKinney, the cabinet official who oversees 39 state regulatory boards, including the Veterinary Board.

"I would hope that this and other agencies would always appreciate someone like Marcia Rosenberg," said McKinney.

But Dr. Stan Gorlitsky, the veterinarian whom Rosenberg complained about, calls her one of his "enemies."

Said Gorlitsky, "I have made some enemies. I practice holistic medicine, and some people hate my guts for it, and some don't. Most don't."

This Thursday, the Veterinary Board is slated to take up at least one complaint from another citizen against Gorlitsky, 53. He declined to comment.

Rosenberg's crusade offers a window into how an activist can change the operations of a state agency and how South Carolina treats its pets.

Her story also raises the question: Who is the Veterinary Board protecting - the vets, or the pets?

SLOW RESPONSE

In June 2000, Marcia Rosenberg sought a vet to spay her kitten, Pumpkin. Spaying prevents a female cat from having kittens.

With her love for pets, Rosenberg always has depended on veterinarians and - new to the Mount Pleasant area - was looking for a good one.

Plenty of vets practice in the booming coastal area east of Charleston. Rosenberg had the pick of the litter, so to speak, and settled on Dr. Gorlitsky. He seemed to have good credentials and to be a nice man.

After the spaying, Pumpkin's stomach swelled, then turned red and raw, according to a statement of findings later issued by the S.C. Veterinary Board.

Two days later, Rosenberg took Pumpkin back to Gorlitsky. He sprinkled antibiotic powder on a piece of gauze and wrapped it about Pumpkin's belly with a piece of tape. Come back in three days, he told Rosenberg, according to Rosenberg's complaint to the Veterinary Board.

Worried Gorlitsky had missed something, Rosenberg took Pumpkin that same day to another veterinarian, Dr. David Steele.

Steele determined Pumpkin's internal stitches were loose and her intestines were falling through a hole in her abdomen. He operated on Pumpkin, saving the kitten.

"It was a life-threatening condition," said Steele.

Rosenberg filed a complaint about Gorlitsky with the S.C. Veterinary Board. "I didn't want other animals or pet owners to suffer," she said.

Rosenberg also requested any prior disciplinary data the Board had on Gorlitsky. The S.C. Veterinary Board sent her an 11-page document. Dated Feb. 17, 1989, the record was an order from Ohio's Veterinary Board. It found Gorlitsky committed "gross incompetence" in four pet care cases. The Ohio board ruled Gorlitsky had:

• Torn the rectum of a dog, Truffaut, while getting a routine fecal sample. Truffaut died;

• Failed to give proper care to a cat named Mittens. Mittens died;

• Allowed a cat named Topaz to get an infection during an operation. Topaz died;

• Failed to give a cat named Misty proper care during a spaying operation. Misty died.

Ohio had suspended Gorlitsky's license for a year. In the early 1990s, Gorlitsky moved to South Carolina.

Rosenberg believed Gorlitsky's history would prompt S.C.'s Veterinary Board to move quickly.

She was wrong.

It was 11 months before the board acted.

When the board did act, it did so in a secret hearing where officials denied Rosenberg entrance.

Later, the Veterinary Board issued an order. It found Gorlitsky's treatment of Pumpkin was "not within the appropriate standard of care for a veterinary medical practitioner in South Carolina."

The board ordered Gorlitsky to pay $251 to compensate the board for its investigation. It required him to take 20 hours of instruction in surgery techniques.

Rosenberg was astonished the board hadn't done more.

"I felt like I had been violated twice. Once with Gorlitsky, and again by the board," she said. "Pumpkin was not an isolated incident. It was one more in a chain of events."

Veterinary Board officials, citing confidentiality rules, declined to discuss Gorlitsky's case.

Even before the board's ruling on Pumpkin, in May 2001, Rosenberg had concluded S.C. laws on disciplining vets were lax.

THE SHERIDAN CASE

Two months after Pumpkin's surgery, a Charleston-area veterinarian, Dr. Tom Sheridan, was arrested in August 2000 by the Charleston County Sheriff's Department.

Deputies charged Sheridan with professional misconduct for animal abuse. His employees complained he was losing his temper and harming animals.

But a magistrate threw the charges against Sheridan out, saying state law prevents veterinarians from being charged with animal abuse.

Sheridan is the animal veterinarian consultant for one of Charleston's biggest tourist attractions - the S.C. Aquarium.

Sheridan keeps his post today, even after the S.C. Veterinary Board ruled in June 2001 that Sheridan "engaged in unprofessional and unethical conduct‘ .‘.‘. through his use of excessive force in restraining" a dog. Sheridan also failed to monitor an anesthetized cat and it died, the board ruled.

The board fined Sheridan $500, ordered him to take an anger management course and take 15 hours of anesthesia training. Sheridan also had to pay $4,556 for administrative costs of the Board's investigation.

"That's a slap on the wrist," said Rosenberg of Sheridan's punishment.

An Aquarium spokesman said Sheridan is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable veterinarian.

Sheridan is not left alone with Aquarium animals, the spokesman said. But that's just because since he is a consultant, he must be with a curator when he takes care of animals. Sheridan didn't respond to an interview request.

MORE COMPLAINTS

Sheridan wasn't Rosenberg's only worry.

She kept hearing complaints from Mount Pleasant residents that their pets had died or been hurt while in Gorlitsky's care. Rosenberg urged them to file complaints with the Veterinary Board.

Veterinarian Dr. Steele, who saved Pumpkin, said in the last nine months, a Veterinary Board investigator has contacted him about two cases in addition to Rosenberg's, Steele said.

Steele said veterinary medicine is not perfect, and pets sometimes die after surgery, even with good care.

But he said, "People like Dr. Gorlitsky kind of give veterinarians a bad reputation. So in certain respects, as a veterinary community, we should be more vocal about it rather than being quiet."

THE CRUSADE

Rosenberg wants to return to the relaxed life she had expected to lead at her home in the Mount Pleasant area. It's a peaceful house, overlooking a marsh, and she shares it with three cats and husband Marvin.

Instead, she spends her time researching state laws on the Veterinary Board, collecting documents and networking with pet owners - all to achieve her goal of making the board more open and accountable.

"I don't know how long it will take. But I will achieve justice for pets," she said.

She also talks with officials like Mark Sweatman, an aide to Gov. Jim Hodges.

"She's a bulldog," said Sweatman, who has helped Rosenberg get interviews with Veterinary Board officials to press her case.

Two lawmakers - Reps. Limehouse and John Graham Altman, both Charleston Republicans - said they will file a bill to open up the workings of the Veterinary Board to the public.

Altman said that once the Veterinary Board has determined that charges against a vet are serious, and the vet formally has replied to the charge, the accusation and reply should be made public.

"This is not a bill against the board. I just want daylight," said Altman. "You have more confidence in a system that airs the charges."

McKinney, who oversees the Veterinary Board, would push to make the board more open and increase fines. Currently, the maximum fine for a vet is $500.

"Like any government agency, we work with the laws we're given," McKinney said.

NEW GORLITSKY HEARING

In a brief recent interview at his office, Gorlitsky confirmed the Veterinary Board would take up at least one complaint about him on Thursday.

"The board asked me specifically on their paperwork not to talk about it. ‘.‘.‘. I'm sorry. I wish I could say more."

His case shouldn't be aired in the media, he said. "It's being taken care of by the board, and it's up to them to judge me."

Rosenberg said she won't rest until the Veterinary Board is more open and cracks down on bad vets.

"The board has an ostrich mentality," she said. "They look the other way. The only reason I'm doing all this is because the Vet Board isn't doing their job."


ARTICLE  #2 

From: http://www.abcnews4.com/news/stories/0604/150846.html

Veterinarian Law Gets Backing
Wednesday June 02, 2004 6:41pm    Posted By: Gia McKenzie
 
Columbia, SC - A bill still needing final approval in Columbia is inspired by a lowcountry cat. Pumpkin is 4 years old and healthy, but when she was 12 weeks old, she almost died from a spay operation.

Marcia Rosenberg cares for Pumpkin, and discovered that the vet who performed the operation had moved to South Carolina from Ohio, where his license to practice had been suspended.

Veterinarian records are not public in South Carolina, so Rosenberg had no way of knowing. She's been working for several years to change that.

A bill drafted by local lawmakers will make complaints public if it recieves final senate approval.

 

ARTICLE #3
 
Posted on Wed, Jun. 02, 2004
 

Senator blocking bill to regulate veterinarians


Measure would open disciplinary process to public



News Columnist

A state senator filibustered Tuesday, trying to derail a bill that supporters say would protect pets and pet owners from incompetent veterinarians.

Sen. Danny Verdin, R-Laurens, said the bill would result in harassment of vets and subject them to unfair regulations.

“I find it (the bill) intolerable,” said Verdin, who told senators he has a lifelong familiarity with veterinarians because his father is a vet.

Verdin specifically objected to a provision that would open up the now-secretive disciplinary process, which critics say allows bad vets to keep harming pets. “For us to build a bill that is built upon lack of trust ... I take offense to that.”

Others say increased public scrutiny is needed. Vet disciplinary proceedings now are secret; citizens who make valid complaints are not allowed to attend the trial-like hearings at which a vet’s guilt or innocence is determined.

“The more the public can see of the process, the better they can understand it,” said veterinarian Dr. Claude Schumpert, a Richland County vet who chairs the S.C. Board of Veterinary Examiners and oversees disciplinary proceedings. He favors the bill.

If the bill passes, the disciplinary system for veterinarians would be as open as that of S.C. lawyers.

In the S.C. legal world, if an investigation determines that a citizen’s complaint against a lawyer is serious and has merit, the attorney is given 30 days to respond. Then the complaint and response are made public and a public hearing is held, said S.C. Bar executive director Robert Wells.

Under the current law, however, veterinarians enjoy a cloak of secrecy. All their disciplinary hearings are secret, even those involving vets with a history of killing and mutilating many pets.

“This secrecy allows bad vets to continue negligent practices because it prevents the public from finding out which veterinarians have valid complaint histories,” said Marcia Rosenberg, a Mount Pleasant homemaker.

Three years ago, Rosenberg’s pet kitten, “Pumpkin,” was injured in a botched operation by Charleston-area vet Dr. Stanley Gorlitsky. When Rosenberg investigated, she learned Gorlitsky had a history of bungling operations. Some of the complaints against Gorlitsky had been kept secret by the S.C. Board of Veterinary Examiners.

“We are talking about only one percent or less of all licensed veterinarians,” said Rosenberg. “This bill only targets that very small minority of vets who have something to fear.”

In 2002, the Board of Veterinary Examiners barred Rosenberg from the hearing at which it took disciplinary action against Gorlitsky for botching operations. (The board suspended Gorlitsky’s license for a year.)

Since then, Rosenberg has worked with veterinarian groups on the bill now before the Senate.

The bill Verdin is trying to kill is backed by the S.C. Association of Veterinarians, the S.C. Board of Veterinary Examiners and Rep. Tom Dantzler, R-Berkeley, the only veterinarian in the General Assembly.

“I totally support this,” said Dantzler, adding that secrecy “looks bad for my profession.”

Dantzler stressed only valid complaints against vets would be made public. Any complaint made would have to go through a three-step process before being made public, he said:

• An initial investigation by a trained investigator

• A review by a special panel of veterinarians, a vet nurse and a consumer representative

• A finding by the eight-member board, seven of whom are veterinarians, that the complaint has merit

Schumpert said the public has a right to know what is happening with a serious complaint.

More openness also will teach the public how complex veterinary work can be, he said. “I really think it would do a lot to help people understand that there is more than one side to a complaint.”

In his Senate speech, Verdin criticized the proposed special panel that would help determine whether a complaint is valid. He said the special panel represented a “whole new body” of regulation.

The public is best served by keeping complaints secret, Verdin said. “The best way to protect the public is to protect the profession.”

Verdin said public airing of complaints could cause pet owners to leave one vet’s practice and flock to another. He also said airing complaints may cause vets to take expensive, unnecessary steps.

“The more that you tilt the regulatory playing field against the conscientious practitioner, the more he’s going to be forced ... to cover his costs and fees that he charges your constituents. We are talking about an escalation of the cost of doing business.”

Verdin said he wasn’t against most other reforms in the bill.

These reforms include requiring newly graduated veterinarians to spend 60 days with an experienced vet before starting their own practice. There is no “intern” requirement now.

The bill already has passed the House and Senate once. A technicality has put it before the Senate a second time. If the Senate approves it within the next two days, it will go to Gov. Mark Sanford.

But Verdin’s filibuster could kill the bill.

Rosenberg said, “The only ones to fear it are the bad vets.”

Dantzler said openness and higher standards shouldn’t be fought.

“This will make our profession stronger and better. It brings our practice into the modern age.”


ARTICLE #4:

 

Posted on Fri, Jul. 23, 2004

Veterinarian retires after complaint




Staff Writer


A Mount Pleasant veterinarian who had his license suspended for a year has agreed to stop practicing in South Carolina.

Dr. Stan Gorlitsky sold his practice and retired, according to an agreement accepted Thursday by the state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.

The order prohibits Gorlitsky from any activity that would lead the public to believe he was a licensed or practicing veterinarian. It says the veterinary board has received a complaint of professional misconduct but is not specific about the complaint.

Gorlitsky’s license was suspended for a year in July 2002 after more than a dozen complaints were filed against him in the previous two years. The board found then that Gorlitsky had been incompetent and negligent in his care of animals.

Marcia Rosenberg, a Mount Pleasant pet owner who filed a complaint two years ago about Gorlitsky’s care of her cat, Pumpkin, has fought to have Gorlitsky’s license revoked.

“They don’t use the word revocation, but it’s the equivalent,” Rosenberg said Thursday.

A woman who answered Gorlitsky’s phone said he was not available. “He sold his practice and retired. It’s as simple as that,” she said.

State officials declined to discuss the agreement.

Gorlitsky sold his Mount Pleasant practice, St. Elmo’s Pet Clinic, and Palmetto Veterinary Hospital opened in the same location in April 2003. Palmetto Veterinary has no association with Gorlitsky.

Rosenberg said she planned to continue to push for passage of legislation that would open to the public the secretive disciplinary process for veterinarians. That would protect pets and pet owners from incompetent veterinarians, she said. The legislation was defeated in June.

Meanwhile, Rosenberg’s cat Pumpkin is 4 years old and healthy. “Every day, when I see her, she reminds me how lucky I am that I have her.”

Reach Hill at (803) 771-8462 or sehill@thestate.com.


ARTICLE #5

from: http://www.thestate.com/mld/state/news/opinion/9314436.htm

Posted on Wed, Aug. 04, 2004

Vet’s retirement doesn’t diminish need for reform

TWO YEARS AFTER he became the poster child for the need to reform South Carolina’s system for regulating veterinarians, Dr. Stan Gorlitsky has sold his practice and agreed not to open another one in the state.

Unfortunately, while he won’t be able to harm any more pets, this action was the result of an agreement between the Mount Pleasant veterinarian and the state Board of Veterinary medical Examiners. That means the board was not able to unilaterally revoke Dr. Gorlitsky’s license, despite its finding that he had been incompetent and negligent in his care for animals in South Carolina — and that he had left behind a string of dead or severely injured pets in two other states.

Worse, in the two years since his botched, and nearly fatal, spay surgery of a kitten named Pumpkin vaulted the veterinarian and the sorry state of our laws onto the front page, the Legislature has not fixed the problem.

Legislators tried; they just didn’t try hard enough to overcome the determined objections of a state senator whose father, a veterinarian, would potentially be affected by the new rules. More than a year ago, the House and the Senate both passed veterinary reform bills. Then they spent the first half of this year trying to work out the differences between the two versions. Once they finally did — over the objection of negotiator Danny Verdin — it was late enough that Sen. Verdin was able to block a Senate vote on the compromise.

Sen. Verdin said he had no problem with most of the changes, which included an internship requirement for new veterinarians. But he adamantly opposed the heart of the legislation — an amazingly modest proposal to partially lift the veil of secrecy that shrouds pet owners’ complaints about potentially dangerous veterinarians.

It is that veil of secrecy, more than any weakness in the authorized powers of the Board of Veterinary Medicine, that makes South Carolina a potentially dangerous place for pets — and for people as well. That veil of secrecy shielded many of the complaints that other pet owners had filed against Dr. Gorlitsky. That meant that even if Pumpkin’s owner checked references, she wouldn’t have had any idea how bad his record was.

Sen. Verdin argued that letting the public know about complaints would lead pet owners to switch to veterinarians against whom complaints had not been filed — which, of course, is one of the main reasons the state would take it upon itself to license and regulate any profession: to allow the public to protect itself from potentially dangerous professionals.

The secrecy that shrouds complaints, and sometimes even “disciplinary actions,” is not limited to veterinarians. It is the hallmark of nearly all the professional disciplinary systems in the state. And it needs to be changed in all cases. What is so appalling is that our state’s cult of secrecy is so strong that it cannot be broken even when we have such a clear-cut, high-profile example of the danger it poses.

Sen. Verdin’s actions were, frankly, outrageous, and all the more so because of his personal connection to the profession. But the larger problem is that the rest of the Legislature allowed his protectionist, anti-consumer attitude to carry the day. While it would have been difficult (though not impossible) for the House to break the impasse, the Senate could easily have passed the new law over his objections. Pet lovers should demand to know why their senator didn’t do that. And they should demand that the legislation be passed next year.


 ARTICLE #6

printer friendly format sponsored by:
The New Media Department of The Post and Courier

SUNDAY, MARCH 20, 2005 12:00 AM

A citizen's important FOI fight

Instead of enjoying her kayak, a Mount Pleasant housewife spent the media-designated "Sunshine Sunday" last week reading everything she could find on freedom of information. Marcia Rosenberg was, she tells us, trying to gather more ammunition to convince state lawmakers to open up records that every pet owner should have the right to see.

Mrs. Rosenberg has been battling for that access for more than four years. It's a cause she took up after winning a prolonged fight that resulted in a Mount Pleasant veterinarian agreeing to close his practice. Her fight began when her kitten, Pumpkin, nearly died after a routine surgery and was saved by another vet.

During the complaint process, her outrage was heightened by the state veterinarian board's closed hearing process, not to mention her inability to learn how many other complaints had previously been filed. The more her persistence gained public notice, the more complaints about the vet came her way and, often with her assistance, were filed with the board. Ultimately, according to our July 2004 report, the vet, whose license was suspended for one year in 2002, agreed to stop practicing in the state.

Fortunately, Mrs. Rosenberg stayed with her mission of trying to ensure that pet owners have the right to check the vet board's records of complaints. What's more, she even convinced top veterinarian officials, including the board, that hers was a reasonable request. Her proposed "sunshine" provision was included in an updated veterinarian practices act introduced in the Legislature last year. Unfortunately, according to a June 2004 report in The State newspaper, the bill was filibustered by Sen. Danny Verdin of Laurens whose father is a veterinarian.

But Mrs. Rosenberg has now gained some powerful Senate allies, including Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell and Berkeley Sen. Larry Grooms, who is chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Both know that what she's advocating is consistent with the reform finally adopted in dealing with complaints against attorneys. The S.C. Press Association is pressing this year for the same openness for complaints against the medical profession.

Certainly there are mean-spirited and frivolous complaints against professionals who are licensed by the state. No one is seriously asking that all complaints be available for public airing. But those that staff investigators have found to warrant further probing should be open for scrutiny, along with the hearing process. That's an important check on the decisions of the board.

What Mrs. Rosenberg has done, according to Sen. McConnell, is "awaken the conscience." If, he noted, a profession seeks to be licensed by the state then it has chosen to put itself in the public eye. "It's a matter of accountability," he said. "The public has got a right to see what complaints are on file on a particular vet before taking a pet to that vet." That ought to be a no-brainer.


This article was printed via the web on 3/20/2005 7:21:36 AM . This article
appeared in The Post and Courier and updated online at Charleston.net on Sunday, March 20, 2005.

 
ARTICLE #7
Posted on Sun, Apr. 17, 2005
from: http://www.thestate.com


S.C. vets want complaints to be private
Doctors backing bills to gag citizens in animal cases

News Columnist

S.C. veterinarians want to muzzle more than dogs these days. Two bills they support would stop citizens from speaking out about incompetent vets.

Bills making their way through the House and Senate would gag citizens who file complaints against veterinarians who they think are incompetent.

The secrecy provisions in the bills are the opposite of those in a bill that almost passed last year. Last year’s bill would have opened up the now-secretive veterinarian disciplinary process, allowing the public to attend hearings once a complaint was determined to be legitimate.

The proposed gagging of citizens who file complaints might violate free-speech rights, said Bill Rogers, executive director of the S.C. Press Association.

“You shouldn’t have to get permission to speak about a public issue,” Rogers said. He noted the S.C. Supreme Court ruled last year that the State Ethics Commission acted improperly in trying to enforce a confidentiality rule against a newspaper.

John Crangle of Common Cause of South Carolina said the secrecy provision is “self-serving and designed to protect individuals who should be exposed for wrongdoing.”

But veterinarians defend the gagging. They say the proposed disciplinary provisions actually are more open than the current law.

Two nearly identical bills have been introduced, one in the House and one in the Senate. The Senate might take up its bill this week.

The new bills, vets say, would — for the first time — allow a citizen who files a formal complaint against a veterinarian to attend the vet’s disciplinary hearing. However, those hearings would remain closed to the public. Currently, citizens who file complaints are banned from disciplinary hearings, which take place only if a complaint is determined to be legitimate.

Veterinarians, including Dr. Roger Troutman of Rock Hill, say prohibiting a pet owner from talking publicly about a complaint is intended to prevent the airing of frivolous grievances.

“Small-town veterinarians seemed to have the most concern about that,” said Troutman, who last year was president of the S.C. Association of Veterinarians. “Negative publicity” before a hearing can unfairly damage a vet, he said.

But Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, who wants to open veterinary hearings once a complaint is deemed legitimate, said the bills’ secrecy could put pets in danger.

Grooms recalled the bungled operation that came close to killing Pumpkin, a cat owned by Marcia Rosenberg of Mount Pleasant. After her cat was saved by another vet, Rosenberg went on a multiyear crusade resulting in the veterinarian disciplinary board suspending Dr. Stan Gorlitsky. Gorlitsky, who later agreed to retire, had a documented record of maiming cats and dogs in Ohio as well as in South Carolina.

If it hadn’t been for Rosenberg making public dozens of complaints about Gorlitsky and putting pressure on a slow-moving veterinary disciplinary board, Gorlitsky still might be practicing, Grooms said. Under the new bills, someone like Rosenberg would be gagged, he said.

“The vet board’s charge is to protect the public,” Grooms said. “But if the public doesn’t have a right to know what’s going on behind closed doors, how is the public protected?”

Rosenberg, who is working against the secrecy provisions, said, “If something bad happens to your pet, you should have the right to tell your friends and neighbors.”

One lawmaker who helped shape the new vet bill is state Sen. Danny Verdin, R-Laurens.

Last June, a bill that included opening the veterinary discipline process to the public was set to become law. But Verdin, who opposed public discipline, staged a filibuster. Senate rules allowed Verdin — acting as a single senator — to kill the bill.

At the time, Verdin, whose father is a veterinarian, said secrecy serves the public. “The best way to protect the public is to protect the profession.”

Verdin did not return repeated calls last week.

Verdin helped draft this year’s bills, said veterinarians and state Rep. Tom Dantzler, R-Berkeley, the sponsor of the House bill.

Dantzler, a retired vet, said he supported the openness in last year’s bill. Now, however, he supports this year’s bill.

“In my 11 years in the Legislature, I’ve never seen a bill that pleased everyone,” he said. After last year’s bill was killed, veterinarians had to draft a bill that would pass, he said.

Secrecy is only a small part of the bill, he said. Other provisions would:

• Require a new veterinarian to train for two months under a more experienced vet

• Allow forms of alternative medicine to be used on pets, such as acupuncture and physical therapy

• Increase fines on wayward vets to $1,000 from $500

• Add a consumer representative to the vet disciplinary board, now made up of only veterinarians.

Veterinarian Dr. Valerie Alexander of Rock Hill, chairman of the S.C. Board of Veterinary Examiners, supports the new bills. They “provide increased protection for the consumer,” she said.

She said she especially likes the section that lets a complaining pet owner attend the secret disciplinary hearings. “It allows the complainant to hear all the facts and to feel confident that their complaint has been appropriately addressed.”

But Rogers of the Press Association, which includes The State newspaper among its members, said veterinarians might find their reputations in jeopardy if they insist on muzzling citizens who file complaints and then holding secret, closed hearings.

“When people are gagged and proceedings are held in secret, the public has room to doubt that things are done fairly,” Rogers said.

The new bills also include one other change from current law.

In the current law, a mission statement makes it clear the veterinary laws are “to protect the public from being misled by incompetent, unscrupulous” vets. Veterinary laws are “in the interest of the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of South Carolina.”

All that language is deleted in the proposed bills.

Asked why there is no mission statement in the new bills, Alexander said that, even without those words, “Our mission hasn’t changed.”






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