Dr. Poor has run a successful, predominantly medical, dermatology practice for over 20 years. With decreasing managed care reimbursements and the increasing costs of rent, employee salaries and medical supplies, Dr. Poor has found it increasingly difficult to pay his bills in recent times. He has now reached the point that he can no longer pay the rent for his 2000 square foot office. His landlord, Mr. Rent, is also a patient of Dr. Poor. Mr. Rent, after multiple attempts to collect the rent, opted to lock the doors to the office. Dr. Poor was still not able to pay his rent and Mr. Rent has become increasingly frustrated. Because he is a patient of Dr. Poor, he files a complaint with the State Board of Medical Examiners accusing Dr. Poor of abandoning his patients. The Board reaches out to Dr. Poor and accuses him of patient abandonment and threatens to take away his medical license. Can this really happen?
Dr. Poor, now with no income due to his locked office, seeks legal help. He claims that he cannot afford the rent because he’s more of a professional than a businessperson. He suggests that he does not aggressively bill and collect because he serves underserved and unfunded patients and therefore cannot afford to pay his rent. He treats his staff well. Dr. Poor also complains that his landlord has not maintained ventilation, plumbing, roofing, and other aspects of the property that he felt were a part of patient safety. Dr. Poor contends that the role of the State Board of Medical Examiners was to protect patients.
What does the complaint against him have to do with patient protection?
In general, Boards of Medical Examiners investigate practices and/or physicians for allegations related to patient safety. Is there a precedent for such a complaint? This year, Dr. Donovan Dixon received a “public letter of concern” from the North Carolina Board of Medical Examiners. This letter related to a judgement entered against his professional medical services corporation, Dixon Medical Services, PC. The judgement was for $64,000. This occurred because Dr. Dixon breached his lease agreement for his medical office space. The Board’s reasoning was that, although rent payments do not directly involve patient care, it was also possible that patient care could be adversely affected in situations because the judgement concerns a medical practice. The Board also alluded to previous issues from both 2014 and 2015 where Dr. Dixon had been subjected to a “Consent Order” allegedly involving “inappropriately prescribing excessive amounts of controlled substances for the treatment of pain in amounts that raised concerns for abuse and/or diversion of these drugs.”