What doctors should do – but don’t – when their colleagues are “significantly impaired or incompetent to practice medicine”

 There’s an old nurses’ joke that goes like this:

  • Q:   What do you call the medical student who finishes dead last in every one of his classes all through med school?
  • A:    “Doctor”

But what happens when these docs are eventually let loose upon the unsuspecting public as professionals with the letters MD after their names?  Who keeps an eye on substandard doctors?

The alarming results of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveal that, although most physicians believe that their medical colleagues who are “significantly impaired or incompetent to practice medicine” should be reported, the reality is that a disturbing number actually chose instead to sit by and do nothing even when they admitted they had “direct personal knowledge” of such incompetence.  Continue reading

Two nurses fired for reporting doctor’s inappropriate actions

This has bizarre backwoods good ol’ boy written all over it, no offense to good ol’ boys: two American nurses, Vicki Galle and Anne Mitchell who, until they were fired in June, had been employed by the Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Kermit, West Texas for over 20 years.  The two nurses not only lost their jobs at the small hospital, they are now facing criminal charges of misuse of official information, which, under the truly frightening Texas Penal Code,  is a third-degree felony with a penalty of 2-10 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. * see updates below

What evil did Vicki and Anne perpetrate to merit this fate?  On April 7th, 2009 they reported to the Texas Medical Board their concerns about Dr. Rolando Arafiles, one of three physicians on contract with the hospital. Arafiles, they claimed, was improperly encouraging patients to buy his own herbal “medicines”, among other concerns.

Arafiles in return filed a harassment complaint with the county sheriff’s department against the nurses. The subsequent criminal charges of misuse of official information claim that the nurses “sent patient files to the state medical board in an attempt to ‘harm, harass or annoy’ one of the hospital’s physicians”. The files included the medical record numbers of the patients affected, although no patient names were disclosed.     Continue reading