TULSA - You trust your doctor with your health and, at times, your life. Now there is a way to give your doctor's record a checkup.
2NEWS Anchor Karen Larsen tracked down some of the state's disciplined medical doctors at a recent meeting of the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision.
On the agenda for its Sept. 13, 2012 meeting, the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure planned to consider applications for licensure from five doctors. Disciplinary matters, including probation review, motions and disciplinary hearings, were set for seven more Oklahoma physicians.
"This is an open meeting, a public meeting so you are certainly welcome to be present," said Lyle Kelsey, executive director of the Board of Medical Licensure.
Kelsey said the board, charged with overseeing medical doctors, is made up of seven physicians and two community members. This board gives physicians their license to practice and can take it away.
Disciplinary hearings are run like a court of law and witnesses are under oath. Because patient safety is the primary concern, Kelsey says the agency conducts careful interviews when a patient calls, mails or emails a complaint.
So far this year, the state has investigated 371 public complaints against medical doctors. Of the 10,068 doctors licensed in Oklahoma, records show 224 physicians have disciplinary action taken against them.
Specially trained investigators, who have medical or law enforcement experience, conduct onsite conversations with the doctor. In addition, the inspectors may examine medical records, prescription records and interview witnesses.
"We must have clear and convincing evidence," Kelsey said. "In the majority of the cases, the doctor will stipulate to those facts that, 'Yes, I did those things'."
During the disciplinary hearings, which are similar to court hearings, doctors must answer questions put to them by an assistant state attorney general and board members. The doctors also can offer evidence to support their position.
If there is clear and convincing evidence to support the complaint, the State Board of Medical Licensure has nine different levels of disciplinary action it can invoke upon a disciplined doctor. Punishment includes community service, fines, reprimands and probation to license revocation for up to a year. Permanent license revocation is the harshest penalty.
"This is literally their practice on the line," Kelsey said.
Gregory Keith Morton III, an obstetrician-gynecologist from Lawton, faced a disciplinary hearing based on two complaints filed in 2011 by patients who allege Morton behaved inappropriately. The board also considered nine other complaints filed against Morton since 1995.
In one of the 2011 complaints, an anonymous patient reported Morton "inappropriately touched her breasts, patted her bottom, looked down her shirt, and put his hands down her shirt."
In the other 2011 complaint, Gayla Janke, a registered nurse, state board inspector and investigator, testified that a second patient complained that "Dr. Morton had made a sexual gesture by fondling his private part and looking a woman up and down."
Janke said that when she confronted Dr. Morton about the allegations, "he denied each and every allegation."
Yet when he was called to testify, Morton admitted the inappropriate conduct. During questioning by Randy Sullivan, assistant attorney general, Morton offered a tearful apology.
"I have made mistakes and I am sorry for them," he said. "And I am sorry that I am here before you all. And I deeply apologize." Morton admitted that "back when I was doing it, I was not aware of it. After I went to therapy and got help, I understood that that behavior was inappropriate."
"So, you would say that those complaints are justified?" Deborah Huff, board president asked.
"Yes," Morton replied.
After hearing evidence on the 11 complaints, the board met in executive session and then reconvened to issue its decision.
"In the matter regarding Gregory Keith Morton, I move, based on any and all of the findings, to revoke the medical license of Gregory Morton, MD.," a board member moved.
The board found that although Morton's license is revoked, the revocation is not permanent and he can apply to have his license reinstated.
The board heard a second case involving a general physician who formerly practiced in Stroud. In 2009, the state board placed Mars Baldoza Gonzaga on indefinite probation for repeatedly overprescribing narcotics to a patient. Records indicate the board prohibited Gonzaga from prescribing controlled narcotics.
Gonzaga testified, "I have been searching for jobs for the past nine months."
2NEWS went to Oklahoma City to review Gonzaga's file at the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision. Because the board maintains public records, physician files are open for viewing upon request.
State records show Gonzaga wrote or authorized 92 prescriptions for controlled dangerous drugs to one patient between Jan.