A couple of months ago I received a phone call from a reporter that was running a national story on the Florida Board of Medicine’s repeated failure to discipline their own. The reporter reminded me of a case in which I represented a patient that suffered devastating injuries from a stroke because the admitting doctor never came to the Emergency room or the hospital to see his patient and failed to order tPA. As the case proceeded through litigation the doctor was arrested and convicted of Medicare Fraud. The doctor is again practicing medicine, as his license was never suspended.
Given the above history the latest move or lack thereof from the Board of Medicine is not that surprising. The facts are as follows:
As reported by the Miami Herald, Teresita Garrido was a patient of Dr. Peter Choy.
In June 2008 Ms. Garrido complained of pain near her abdomen and pelvis, and Dr. Choy ordered a CT scan. The CT scan revealed a large, malignant mass. Dr. Choy did not report these findings despite the fact that Ms. Garrido continued to see Choy as her primary care provider, and even though she visited his office five times between June 2008 and March 2010. Dr. Choy never made note of the tumor in her medical record, and he did not provide her with further evaluation or referral to a specialist, according to the Department of Health’s complaint.
In June 2010, Garrido again visited Choy for a follow-up appointment and complained of abdominal pain and abnormal weight loss, the complaint notes. Choy referred her to a hematologist, though he noted that referral in an addendum five days after her visit.
The hematologist informed Garrido on the same day she visited his office that her lab work suggested chronic liver disease, and he recommended that Choy perform additional tests.
During a visit with Choy in July 2010, the doctor noted that Garrido had a “possible malignancy,’’ and he ordered another CT scan of her abdomen and pelvis.
The CT scan report was delivered to Choy the day after the procedure, and it indicated that Garrido had “a large mass,” Three days later Choy admitted Garrido to Mercy Hospital in Miami, where tests showed a “metastatic tumor of pancreatic origin.”
Teresita Garrido died on Aug. 6, 2010
The cause of death was liver disease and acute renal failure.
Dr. Choy told the board he has practiced medicine for 40 years, admitted that he altered the medical records out of “fear of a lawsuit at the end of my career,” and added that, “I still have over 8,000 patients that I have been taking care of in the last few years, and I hope you will continue to allow me taking care of them.’’
“I made a mistake, and I acknowledge I shouldn’t change those records,’’ Choy said to the board, reading from a statement, “and I ask from my heart for leniency, as I am the sole bread winner for my family.’’
Ask and you shall receive. The Board ordered Dr. Choy, to pay a $30,000 fine, serve a six-month suspension followed by five years of probation, and attend courses on laws and rules, record-keeping and ethics. That’s IT!!!!!!!
To further add insult to injury, the Board of Medicine initially voted 5-4 to revoke Choy’s license and fine him $40,000, but after a five-minute recess, Zachariah P. Zachariah, a prominent GOP fundraiser appointed to the board by Gov. Rick Scott moved to reconsider. The board accepted, and member Steven Rosenberg, a West Palm Beach dermatologist, moved to impose a reduced penalty because Choy had practiced for 40 years and hadn’t been disciplined before, according to minutes of the meeting. The motion for a reduced penalty passed, 7-2.
Not disciplined before? not accurate. Again, as reported by the Miami Herald, Dr. Choy was charged with unprofessional conduct in April 1998 by New York’s Board of Professional Medical Conduct and ordered to surrender his medical license for intentional deception after Dr. Choy submitted applications to health insurers in 1994 and 1995 falsely representing that he was certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine when he was not.
Dr. Choy complied with the New York order and surrendered his license. But he failed to report the incident to the three other states where he also held a medical license: Arizona, Florida and New Jersey, which led to reprimands and fines from those states’ medical boards in 2000 and 2002.
Note to Governor Scott and all those that seek Medical Malpractice reform. Perhaps the reform needs to start with the Board of Medicine, and imposing stiffer penalties on those that ruin lives and falsify records. Florida should not serve as a safe haven for doctors that lose their license in other states.