The abrupt and mysterious closure of KE Medical Group — an action that left 16,000 patients in a lurch, many who’ve been unable to get prescriptions refilled, treatments completed, appointments made, records transferred — has become even more mysterious.
If what a Las Vegas physician says is true, someone from the ranks of British nobility, a viscount apparently living in Switzerland with a German princess who used to sing with the Swedish pop group ABBA, may be responsible for the abrupt shutdown of KE Medical Group.
In a letter sent to Don Andreas, an investigator with the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners, Dr. Paul Emery, a former physician with the group, identifies Viscount Henry Smith as the principal investor in the medical group and Las Vegas financier Chet Nichols as “the liaison from Smith to the group.”
Although Emery wrote that he and other staff physicians had only a 24-hour notice of the closing and that Nichols had repeatedly told doctors funding for the practice was “available through at least March,” Emery also told Andreas that he had subsequently learned that Nichols knew the closing had been planned for months.
“I heard from one of our clerks, Linda Steele … that she was now free of her gag order, placed three or so months prior by Chet Nichols, and (she) informed us that this closure was already planned!” Emery wrote.
Steele could not be reached for comment. Attempts to reach Nichols, who identified himself in a recent press release as the representative of a financial backer he did not name, were unsuccessful. Nichols wrote in his release that poor economic results caused a “cessation of funding” by the unnamed financial backer.
Smith is a descendant of the founders of stationery group giant WH Smith, and according to the British Daily Telegraph newspaper, he lives in Switzerland with singer Frida Lyngstad of ABBA fame. A German princess by marriage to the late Heinrich Reuss, she’s known for “Dancing Queen” and other songs.
Neither Lyngstad nor Smith had listed phone numbers in Europe. Smith succeeded to the title of Viscount Hambleden upon the death of his father in 2012. In British practice he is addressed as “My Lord.”
In an interview, Emery said he met “My Lord” several times in Las Vegas and found him “a little clueless.”
Emery speculated that the viscount probably was encouraged to invest in KE by Dr. Robert Koblin, the Beverly Hills, Calif., doctor who founded the group.
“He (Koblin) is a doctor to the stars in California and he probably met the viscount socially and told him KE would be a good investment,” said Emery, who plans on opening a new office soon. Patients can contact him at 702-449-0047.
In his letter, Emery, a primary care physician, said neither Smith nor Nichols had “experience or knowledge in health care delivery,” and should be investigated for their part in the shutdown to “the fullest extent.”
“We doctors would have never left our patients in the lurch like that,” Emery wrote.
At closure, the KE website listed 10 staff physicians: Paul Emery, Barry Nahin, John Rhodes, Ethan Cruvant, Berge Dadourian, Sean Ameli, Abraham Nagy, Brian Berelowitz, April Marquardt and Rama Harouni.
Emery said he did not know if either Koblin or Dr. Marc Edelstein, another Beverly Hills physician who’s listed as managing officer of the group by the Nevada secretary of state, played a role in the closure.
In his letter, Emery wrote that the secrecy of KE management hurt patients:
“In my opinion, management was neither transparent nor forthcoming in the apparent shaky financial status of KE. I believe if the physicians were more informed, more appropriate and morally upstanding planning and decisions could have been made, especially as regards our patients’ welfare and safety.”
Doug Cooper, executive director of the medical board, has said he knows of no other large medical practice in Nevada history that closed its doors without an orderly transition for patients. He said the closing caused “chaos with unintended consequences” that included heart patients unable to get critical medications refilled.
Emery said he’d like to know where the medical board is in its probe. Neither Andreas or Cooper returned calls last week.
In his letter, Emery repeatedly said KE physicians had no idea that the facility would close.
“Only two weeks prior to doors shutting for good, Nichols had the audacity to have dinner with myself, Dr. (John) Rhodes and Dr. (Brian) Berelowitz with the express intent of brainstorming strategies to keep the group viable after March 2014.”
Emery described staff physicians as at a loss for what to do at the closure.
“We were left to scramble to assemble woefully inadequate makeshift operations to establish communication lines to assist our patients, means of receiving important documents (lab results, X-ray reports, professional communications, etc.) and to establish new places of employment, each of which cannot be done overnight.”
Emery said the closing resulted in “serious and potentially dangerous gaps in care.”
“I truly believe,” he wrote, “that KE management shirked their moral responsibility in letting economic woes trump their ethical and legal responsibility towards patients and staff.”
To this day, Emery doesn’t know why KE closed as it did. He says staff physicians had nothing to do with it.
“If we screw our patients, we screw ourselves.”
Contact reporter Paul Harasim at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2908.