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.