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Necessary Action or Elder Abuse?

11/20/17 1:39 PM

This story caught my attention.

I have mixed feelings.

Dr. Anna Konopka is a general practitioner in New London, New Hampshire.

Ever heard of it? Neither had I. 4,000 people live there. Not a big community.

Dr. Konopka graduated from medical school in Poland in 1960. She moved to the U.S. soon thereafter and she has been a licensed physician in the .S. since 1968.

She is currently 84.

She will serve any patient who can pay her $50 in cash.

Senior Assistant Attorney General in New Hampshire, Lynmarie Cusack said Konopka “surrendered her license after Board of Medicine investigators confronted her with the results of four separate investigations. Cusack would not discuss the investigations, saying they remain confidential under state law.”

State authorities claimed that because Dr. Konopka does not have a computer or know how to use one, her organizational skills are lacking. More damning, she cannot access the state’s required online drug monitoring program where prescribers notify the system what quantity of opioids they’re issuing. The authorities continued that this deficiency hampers her ability to follow the law and practice medicine.

Dr. Konopka appeared in court without an attorney hoping the judge would order the state medical board to reinstate her license.

“If I close my office, they will be without medical care,” she told the court. “Some of them need medications. Who will prescribe for them if I don’t have a license? I worry what will happen to them.”

There may be more to this case than meets the eye. One prior board complaint was settled via consent decree earlier this year. And apparently, the doctor had previously been represented by counsel (assigned by her malpractice carrier) and signed off on a consent agreement restricting her ability to practice medicine. In court Dr. Konopka was suing the Board to rescind her prior signed agreement.

But, if this is mostly a matter of an elderly doctor being the primary provider in a small, rural community not having sufficient computer skills to access a narcotic database, revoking the doctor’s license seems heavy handed. The community is likely already underserved. Her departure might mean the community will be even more underserved. And, it’s not clear where many of the patients in the community might easily receive future care.

Further, if the doctor has provided service to this hamlet for decades, she likely knows most of its inhabitants quite well. Does she really need access to the database? What if she agrees to avoid prescribing narcotics?

Yes, having computer skills in important for practicing in the 21st century. But, accumulated wisdom from nearly 50 years as a licensed U.S. physician should count for something.

What do you think? Share your comments below.


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Posted by Medical Justice | in Legal | 5 Comments »
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Gene Saltzberg MD
Guest
Gene Saltzberg MD

1) illegal restraint of trade!
2) if necessary to have computer skills
to practice medicine, then those skills
would be taught in medical school. For
older doc’s the state must offer the
necessary courses, and then require her to take them.
Similar to opioid required education!
3) her patients must speak up!

Steve Laverson MD
Guest

Without knowing more about the four separate investigations, difficult to comment. Still, on face value, it seems another case of government over-reach. Government does bear some responsibility for public safety. Is the public safer with Dr. Konopka available to provide service in her small New Hampshire hamlet, or is the public safer without her? Need more data to offer a judgment.

Michael M. Rosenblatt
Guest
Michael M. Rosenblatt

We don’t know from this article if this doctor had any malpractice suits or has been charged with any medical incompetence by the state medical board. The state’s chief complaint arises from lack of computer skills. Does she have a record of over-prescribing? Has the state been able to produce a single record of improper opiate dosage? Failing to find any specific direct evidence of incompetence other than lack of computer skills puts a large hole in the medical board action to keep her from practicing. Another method to fix this issue is for her to hire an assistant who… Read more »

Victoria Powell
Guest

Best I can recall, and I remember because it shocked me, then presidential candidate John McCain admitted to not accessing the internet himself. The heavy handedness of medical licensing boards seems to be increasing, it’s more of a condo association effect, where those without legal training try to become the law-makers and executors. I’d like to help her, pro bono. How can doctors disabled in other ways manage to practice medicine? Is this a due process or equal protection issue? Perhaps an NP or PA or scribe or assistant could “supervise” this doctor and vice versa…there;s got to be a… Read more »

EasyE
Guest
EasyE

The physician will win this case. My dearest mother is a 76 semiretired shrink practicing in NY. She was petrified by the prospect of losing her license to practice, since the state is phasing out all paper prescriptions. NY offers an exemption from the state mandate for those that qualify. She stated she was completely unable to use computers for prescribing, and also reported her limited prescribing, since she sees patients every other week. The exemption from ePrescribe was granted for 2 consecutive years. The whole process for requesting a waiver must be performed on a computer, and she could… Read more »