Pubdate: Wed, 24 Jul 2002
Source: Daily Independent, The (KY)
Copyright: 2002 The Daily Independent, Inc.
Author: Ben Fields


Some Say Doctor's Arrest Leads to Unfair Stereotyping

Longtime patients of a South Point doctor arrested last month on drug 
charges are saying they have had trouble finding new medical care.

The FBI arrested Randall McCollister, who had a practice in Ironton, and 
former patient Lawrence D. Jenkins on June 21 for allegedly conspiring to 
fraudulently obtain and illegally distribute prescription drugs, including 

The arrest led to the shutdown of McCollister's office, and initially left 
patients with no way to obtain medical records - essential in obtaining 
another doctor.

McCollister's arrest comes at a time when several arrests and indictments 
have been made for similar offenses in the area, including a number of 
doctors in South Shore.

Some of those doctor's patients have also complained of having problems 
finding new doctors, though law enforcement officials have said the 
majority, but not all, of the patients who went to South Shore did so 
strictly for the controlled substances they could obtain. Many traveled 
more than 100 miles.

In McCollister's practice, some of the patients were local residents who 
had been coming to the doctor for years for various medical conditions.

Blake Sypher, director of biomedical ethics education at Marshall 
University, said he has seen similar situations in recent years.

"These people who are getting arrested aren't all running fly-by-night 
offices," Sypher said. "Some have had thriving, seemingly reputable practices."

McCollister's office recently reopened so patients can get their records, 
but going nearly a month without being able to obtain them was frustrating, 
patients said.

"The sign on the office said it was closed until further notice, and no one 
was answering the phone," said Charolette Risner, a 53-year-old Flatwoods 
resident .

Both Risner and her husband, Rocky, a former Kentucky Electric Steel 
worker, had been patients of McCollister's since he was a doctor at Our 
Lady of Bellefonte Hospital.

"We had no way of getting our records, and no one would see us without 
them," she said.

Ashland resident Robert Castle, 56, another longtime patient of 
McCollister's, said he had to scrape together what records he could from 
McCollister's time at OLBH in order to get another doctor to see him.

McCollister voluntarily resigned from the hospital in 1996, a hospital 
official said.

Castle says he's on several maintenance drugs, some of which are controlled 
substances, for a heart condition, and is having to ration his medicine 
until his appointment with a new physician in August.

Jane Powell, an office employee of McCollister's, said she and other staff 
didn't know what to do when the doctor was arrested.

"We got some legal advice, and decided to open up the office so people 
could get in here and get their records," Powell said Thursday.

Even if patients have their records, it doesn't mean they will get to see 
another doctor, they claim.

Some longtime patients say they've encountered prejudice at other doctor's 
offices because of their former physician's alleged criminal entanglements.

"They think everyone who went over there (McCollister's office) are drug 
addicts," Risner said.

Another patient, who asked not to be named, said he and his wife had been 
seeing McCollister for seven years, and said he also has encountered 
resistance because of his former physician.

"We didn't know any of that stuff was going on, and now we're being treated 
like junkies," he said. "No one will take us."

Castle said he was advised by one practice to "find another doctor" when he 
mentioned his previous physician's name.

Doctors are not under any legal  obligation to take new patients, Sypher 
said, and some offices the patients are calling might merely be full.

He said he has never seen a situation where patients have struggled to find 
health care after losing a physician.

"It's unfair to stigmatize someone because of who their doctor is," he 
said. "A physician's practice should be set up appropriately to distinguish 
between drug-seekers and patients who have been left in a lurch."
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