Strange. Very strange.
Unless you buy into Dr. James Gabroy’s belief that the Nevada State Medical Board is solely out to harass him — and the evidence seems to lean more that way every day — there is no other way to describe the board’s treatment of an internist who’s never had malpractice, incompetence, fraudulent billing, patient abandonment or sexual misconduct issues.
Earlier this month, I told of how the board scheduled a Sept. 28 hearing in Reno, where the 69-year-old Gabroy was to defend himself against charges of bad penmanship — no, there aren’t any claims that his alleged bad handwriting hurt patients in any way. Not even a claim that a prescription had to be rewritten.
Punishment in Gabroy’s case ranges from a $5,000 fine to license revocation.
Why was the board requiring Gabroy go to Reno? Why couldn’t he have teleconferenced remarks out of Las Vegas? He’s done that before. As his attorney Colleen Platt notes, there is no statute requiring him to go to Reno.
“The reason they want me to go to Reno is strictly punitive,” Gabroy said. “They want me to go to their fortress of power. They just want to inconvenience me and my patients. They don’t like my attitude toward their ridiculous complaints.”
As Platt notes, there’s also no statute indicating to whom Gabroy’s records must be legible. His staff and medical billing office read his records. So can patients and pharmacies and other doctors. But a doctor the board hired said she can’t.
Gabroy charges UMR, an offshoot of insurance giant United Healthcare, filed the initial complaint, claiming its employees couldn’t read his writing. The fax number of some records in the case sent to the medical board was UMR’s.
Ed Cousineau, the board’s executive director, won’t comment. Nor will a spokesman for United Healthcare.
Gabroy contends UMR owes him $100,000 and uses the complaint as a stalling tactic.
Now it turns out the Sept. 28 hearing the board set up nearly two months ago — Gabroy lined up three doctors, a California handwriting expert and a billing expert to testify — is postponed largely because the board says something is wrong with its teleconferencing equipment in Las Vegas, where the three Las Vegas doctors were to testify.
So Gabroy’s witnesses could have testified from Las Vegas but not Gabroy.
That seems like harassment, not strange.
The postponement — no new date is set — hurts Gabroy’s case.
“They knew by my learning about this just eight business days before the hearing it would play havoc with both my schedule and that of my doctors as witnesses,” Gabroy said. “Doctors have to change appointments for patients and procedures. Now these doctors tell me they can’t do this again to their practices.”
Platt said she only learned about the postponement because she contacted the board about the hearing setup. She doesn’t know when a work order was put in to fix the video equipment. Cousineau won’t say. Platt said Gabroy should have been immediately notified. It’s possible doctors wouldn’t have had to reschedule patients and procedures.
Robert Kilroy, the board’s general counsel, would only say the postponement was agreed upon.
Platt said Gabroy had to agree.
If the hearing had been held in Reno without teleconferencing, Gabroy — who treats many uninsured people for little or no money — would have had to pay the trip tab for his three witnesses. If the hearing would have been held in Las Vegas, he would have likely had to pay the costs of a board entourage from Reno — if he lost.
“I couldn’t advise him to have the hearing now in Las Vegas because of the situation,” Platt said.
The “situation” is that the hearing officer is hired by the board bringing the charges.
Platt said minor punishment the board often hands down includes having a defendant pay the board’s costs in a case.
“I’m not about to pay for travel and lodging for a board staff that should be partially in Las Vegas anyway,” Gabroy said.
“Where’s the justice in that?”
Paul Harasim’s column runs Sunday, Tuesday and Friday in the Nevada section and Thursday in the Life section. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5273. Follow @paulharasim on Twitter.