Pubdate: Tue, 25 May 2010
Source: Topeka Capital-Journal (KS)
Copyright: 2010 The Topeka Capital-Journal
Note: from the Associated Press


WICHITA - A physician assistant who worked at a clinic tied to 68
overdose deaths testified Tuesday that records were so disorganized
that a patient was able to get more painkillers even though she went
to an emergency room for an overdose two days earlier.

Hien Tran said a hospital fax about the emergency treatment never made
it into the patient's file at Schneider Medical Clinic in Haysville.
Tran said she never would have refilled the prescription had she seen
the fax.

Tran was among several witnesses who testified Tuesday before
prosecutors rested their case against the clinic's owners, Dr. Stephen
Schneider and his wife, Linda. Both were indicted on charges including
unlawfully prescribing drugs and health care fraud. They could face a
life sentence if convicted of the most serious charge, unlawfully
prescribing drugs leading to death.

The doctor is expected to testify Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Monti
Belot rejected a routine defense motion to acquit the couple Tuesday.

Tran told jurors that without knowing about the emergency room visit,
she followed standing instructions from Schneider to refill previously
prescribed medications.

Patricia Gaskill, 49, died on June, 20 2005, four days after she was
taken to the hospital for a possible drug overdose and two days after
being treated by Tran. Gaskill, a clinic patient since a 2003 car
wreck, had recently undergone knee replacement surgery.

Asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway how the death affected
her, Tran replied, "It saddened me."

Tran acknowledged on cross examination that Gaskill didn't tell her
about the emergency room visit. Tran said she would not have given her
a refill for painkillers had Gaskill been honest.

Tran, who worked at the clinic for four months, said patient visits
were scheduled five minutes apart. If the visits took longer, Linda
Schneider would pace outside the door, knock and sometimes stick her
head into the examining room, Tran said.

Tran also testified that she saw Stephen Schneider change some of the
fee tickets she had marked for her patients to a higher level of care
for insurance billing purposes.

Another of the clinic's former physician assistants, Debra Klingsick,
told jurors that when she began working there in 2004, she was given a
pad of blank prescriptions pre-signed by Stephen Schneider.

Klingsick said that after one weekend, Schneider asked her if she had
any prescription forms left. When she replied she did, he laughed and
told her she wasn't writing enough prescriptions, Klingsick said.

She also testified that when she cut off painkillers to her patients,
Schneider would later reinstate them.

Klingsick told jurors that she believed Schneider was a "legalized
drug dealer."

On cross examination, Klingsick acknowledged Schneider never told her
to write prescriptions for people who were not in pain.

A former patient, identified as Alicia C., testified that she was
addicted to painkillers and was not in pain when she went to Schneider
for painkillers. She said she lied about her pain and was given a
prescription after a 10-minute office visit.

"It was like Burger King for a pain addict," she said. "You got what
you ordered."

She acknowledged that the clinic changed her medications to help wean
her off painkillers after she asked for help kicking her addiction.
After an emergency room visit for an overdose, the clinic entirely cut
off her prescriptions for controlled substances, she testified. 
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