June 10, 2013

London doctor’s license suspended

Stokes accused of various infractions

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The medical license of a former London doctor was suspended by the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure for various infractions of his practice.

Christopher Todd Stokes, who operated Stokes Medical Clinic on Ky. 30, is now suspended from “any act which constitutes the practice of medicine” through an Emergency Order of Suspension issued by the medical licensure board.

The suspension was handed down on May 22 based on several interviews with former staff of Stokes’ medical practice. Improper documentation to the state’s KASPER system, which monitors prescribed controlled substances, allowing unlicensed personnel to call in prescriptions, pre-signed prescription forms and even an accusation that a burglary was staged to remove patient records from Stokes’ office were part of the areas looked into.

An investigation was launched following a complaint that Stokes had not been in his office since September or October 2011 and no nurse practitioner had been on staff since July 2012. However, Stokes’ patients were still receiving their controlled and non-controlled prescribed substances during tat time.

When an investigator with the Office of the Attorney General’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services visited Stokes’ office in August 2012, he found only one unlicensed staff member present. He also found “dozens of pre-signed controlled substances blanks.”

According to the information in the Order, Stokes was absent from his office from the fall of 2011 and a nurse practitioner had been handling the office procedures and issuing prescriptions to his patients per Stokes’ orders. But when the nurse practitioner left Stokes’ practice, his sister took over the office operations and instructed the staff to follow Stokes’ orders per her telephone conversations with him.

Stokes was allegedly placed on active duty status with the military in December 2011 and was in Washington D. C. Although he promised to do clinic hours at his medical offices on Ky. 30 on weekends, no such practice ever evolved. Instead, prescription forms signed by Stokes were left in the office and the staff was instructed to call in the prescriptions for two weeks at a time. One employee interviewed during the investigation said she had been doing blood pressure readings, giving shots, documenting allergies and taking patients’ presenting complaints at Stokes’ office, although the employee had only a high school education and no medical training and was hired for clerical work. Another employee confirmed that staff had been instructed to call in prescriptions for patients by Stokes’ sister’s direction.

Entries into the KASPER system were delinquent and the lack of availability of Stokes to maintain his practice caused a backup of complaints and concerns from healthcare officials in the area. There were basically no entries of prescribed controlled substances between July 3 and October 31, 2012.

Stokes’ absence from his office began after a domestic dispute between his girlfriend in 2011, with the judge ordering the couple to keep their distance from one another. The former nurse practitioner told investigators that Stokes refrained from coming to his office since his girlfriend (now wife) also worked there. He also stopped seeing his patients regularly, the former employee said.

A visit to Stokes’ office by investigators with the Division of Audits and Investigation, Attorney General’s Office, Cabinet for Family and Children Services, reviewed Stokes’ records with the KASPER entries and had a number of concerns. The Emergency Order of Suspension states that Stokes received a subpoena on Feb., 27, 2013 to produce records for 22 patients for a review of the medical licensure board.

However, on March 16, Stokes’ father reported that all the computers in Stokes’ office were missing. Those computers contained the records of Stokes’ patients.

The Laurel County Sheriff’s officials who investigated the alleged burglary could find no signs of forced entry, however,  and the officer told investigators the burglary appeared to have been staged, according to the document.

Another Sheriff’s Deputy, according to the document, spoke with Stokes’ wife, who said the “reported burglary was false and had not occurred,” and that she did not want to “get into trouble for making a false report.”

Stokes’ wife, according to the report, told the investigator that she had personal knowledge that her husband and his father had removed the computers from Stokes’ office because he was concerned regarding the investigation of his practice. She had been staying with Stokes in Washington D.C. until they reportedly separated recently. She also said Stokes is having financial problems, owing “several hundred thousand dollars” in student loans and “several thousand dollars to the IRS.”

State law governing the medical licensure board allows suspension or other disciplinary action to occur when the inquiry panel in an investigation believes the physician has violated the terms of an order, placing him on probation or when a physician’s practice constitutes a danger to the health, welfare and safety of his patients or the general public. The panel decided that Stokes had indeed violated state law and that continuing his license to practice medicine at this time does indeed create that danger. Based on the belief that these violations have already occurred give reason that they will continue to occur in the future.

Due to the decision, Stokes is not permitted to “practice any form of medicine--which includes the diagnosis, treatment, or correction of any and all human conditions, ailments, diseases, injuries, or infirmities by any and all means, methods, devices, or instrumentalities--until the resolution of the complaint....discussed in this pleading or until such further Order of the Board.”

The business site where Stokes’ medical office is located was recently sold through a Master Commissioner’s sale to Forcht Bank for $443,000.