Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - July 2009
Copyright 2009 - Polk County Publishing Company
State agencies levy charges against surgeon, nurse
Houston County Courier - July 2009
By Daphne Hereford
In separate actions, two state agencies have levied charges against a doctor and a nurse at East Texas Medical Center Crockett.
The Texas Medical Board levied a complaint against local surgeon Dr. John Patrick Walker and the Texas Board of Nursing filed a formal complaint against Registered Nurse Mary Driskell.
Both cases will be heard before the State Office of Administrative Hearings in Austin. Trial dates have not yet been set for either of the cases.
ETMC Administrator Terry Cutler said, “The safety of our patients is and will continue to be our utmost priority. After learning of these charges, ETMC forwarded them to our legal counsel for review. This is an isolated situation involving Dr. Patrick Walker and the Texas Medical Board and Mary Driskell and the Texas Board of Nursing. This matter does not involve any of the other health care professionals at ETMC or the level of service provided by this hospital. I must direct any further comments to our legal counsel.”
ETMC Attorney Alexis Fuller, Jr. of Davis and Davis PC, Austin, said, “We are conducting an investigation at this time and as such, it would be inappropriate for us to comment.”
According to records, the Texas Medical Board (TMB) filed their formal complaint against Dr. Walker on April 20 stating no agreements to settle the matter had been reached by the parties.
The complaint alleges that during the period of February 2006 – May 2007 Dr. Walker repeatedly failed to meet the standard of care in the care and treatment of patients by permitting and encouraging medical students and a Certified Registered Nurse First Assistant (CRNFA) to perform surgery on patients without supervision or with inadequate supervision.
Procedures outlined in the complaint include laparoscopic cholecystectomies, esophageal gastroduodenoscopies, colonoscopies, hernia repairs, dissection of lesions, dissections of the carotid artery and breast mass removal.
The complaint also alleges that when Dr. Walker was specifically asked whether medical students were unsupervised for up to 30 minutes during procedures he replied, “Yes there is. They’re under my direct supervision. That doesn’t say I’m in the room, they’re not, I’m not in the room. At any teaching institution in the country is the faculty guy sitting there watching the resident or the student every 10 seconds.”
The TMB complaint also indicates there are aggravating factors that warrant more severe or restrictive action by the TMB board citing the violations involve more than one patient; there is an increased potential for harm to the public and he intentionally over an extended period of time delegated professional medical responsibility to persons known to him to not possess the necessary skill or qualifications.
The formal charges filed against Ms. Driskell by the Texas Board of Nursing (TBN) dated Nov. 20, 2008 state that “on or about 2005-August 2006 she participated in surgeries as the surgical first assistant in which the surgeon, Dr. Walker, did not always provide the continuous and attentive supervision needed to adequately ensure patient safety and manage the medical aspects of patient care in the event of any unexpected and/or adverse complications.”
The charges against Ms. Driskell allege she made initial surgical incisions at times without adequate surgeon supervision, placed initial trocars to initiate laparoscopic surgeries, at times without adequate surgeon supervision, dissected tissues and lesions at times without adequate surgeon supervision and performed tissue biopsies at times without adequate surgeon supervision.
The complaint continued to add that her, “conduct created a potentially unsafe environment for surgical patients.”
In a telephone interview with Ms. Driskell on Tuesday morning she said, “would you like to to speak to my attorney?” then hung up.
When called again and asked about the charges Ms. Driskell said, “Do not call me in the middle of surgery again. I am at work and do not take personal calls.” The Courier asked for the name and contact information of her attorney but as of press time on Wednesday morning had not received it.
The TMB complaint against Dr. Walker also alleges that in several instances he did not respond to overhead pages to report to the operating room while the CRNFA was performing the procedures and that he was aware that neither the CRNFA or medical students were licensed to practice medicine in the state of Texas.
The TMB complaint indicates that the conduct constitutes grounds for the board to revoke or suspend Dr. Walker’s medical license or impose other authorized means of discipline.
In Dr. Walker’s answer to the case filed by his attorney Jeff B. McDonald, J.D. of McDonald, Mackay and Weitz, LLP of Austin on April 29, he denies the allegations contained in the complaint filed by the TMB.
In a telephone call on Tuesday morning, Dr. Walker’s secretary Thea Daigle said, “He is at an American Board of Surgery meeting in Philadelphia. I will give him your number.”
Within minutes Dr. Walker called and in response to the charges said, “Anybody can file a complaint with the medical board. I could say a lot of things but I’m not sure it’s the right thing to do. They (the charges) don’t involve any patient care issues. We try to do the highest quality care that we can.”
Dr. Walker added, “Those charges were filed by people who want me out of Crockett. I will defend those allegations to the end and deny any wrong doing”
Dr. Walker concluded by saying, “I want to keep health care in Crockett; there are those who do not wish to care for our citizens in a local manner.”
The TBN complaint against Ms. Driskell also alleges in a second charge that while applying for medical credentials as a Registered Nurse First Assistant with ETMC she incorrectly answered the disclosure question regarding current or previous investigations by a licensing authority.
The complaint also indicates the staff will present evidence in support of the recommended disposition of revocation of her license to practice nursing in the state of Texas and they will seek to impose administrative costs of the proceeding.