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Please use your "back" browser to return to the Main/Navigation page or click here: http://rimadyldeath.com.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.
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 -- firstname.lastname@example.org.
PUMPKIN in ACTION!
Posted on Thu, Jun. 16, 2005
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.
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
"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 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.
Posted on Mon, May. 30, 2005
‘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.
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
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?
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.
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."
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."
May my beloved partner ROMI rest in peace - no matter wherever her bits and pieces/frozen carcass may be held hostage.
[what's in YOUR "urn" ?]