August 12, 2013

Doctor appeals suspension

Circuit Court issues emergency restraining order

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer


A London doctor who came under scrutiny by the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure earlier this summer is facing an up-and-down battle regarding continuing to practice medicine.

Dr. Christopher Todd Stokes, a native Laurel Countian who operated Stokes Family Medical Center on Ky. 30, was the subject of several complaints dating back to late 2011.

Stokes’ license to practice medicine in the state of Kentucky was suspended in May, then overturned during an appeals hearing, and is now under suspension from an emergency restraining order by the Jefferson Circuit Court.

Accusations that Stokes had not been at his medical clinic, had instructed employees to sign his name on prescription pads, and allowed employees with no medical certification to do medical procedures were the basis of the complaint filed in 2012.

An investigation by the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure resulted in Stokes’ medical license being suspended in late May. However, Stokes requested an emergency hearing on the issues and the decision was voided by the hearing officer. In a document dated July 22, 2013, hearing officer Thomas J. Hellmann issued a final order stating: “The hearing officer finds that there is not substantial evidence in the record in support of the Emergency Order of Suspension, and consequently, the emergency order is overturned.”

That decision was based on the absence of testimony from witnesses in the  initial investigation by the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure. All evidence presented in the investigation by the KBML was considered “hearsay” according to Hellmann’s comments in the emergency hearing requested by Stokes.

“None of the persons who made allegations of misconduct against Stokes, however, testified at the administrative hearing, and Stokes in his testimony at the hearing denied all allegations of misconduct,” the hearing officer wrote, adding Stokes said each of the persons making accusations against him “had their own motivations to lie and fabricate the allegations against him.”

However, the KBML took immediate action and filed for a temporary injunction against the latest ruling by the appeals officer, which was approved by the Jefferson County Circuit Court on July 25.

Bertha Wallen, legal counsel for the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, said physicians involved in such cases have the right to appeal the decision of the medical licensing board, which Stokes did. However, the decision to overturn the suspension of Stokes’ medical license was based on the fact that  none of the witnesses testified during the appeals hearing.

Those witnesses in the initial investigation include Stokes’ wife, Tabitha; a former nurse practitioner; Stokes’ father; and two other persons.

“They weren’t called to testify,” Wallen said. “Witnesses are not usually called to testify in an appeals hearing. But they will be called to testify in the circuit court hearing.”

In the meantime, the temporary restraining order issued by a Jefferson Circuit judge includes a handwritten note stating Stokes may seek an order from the court to appeal the temporary restraining order.

Wallen said she had no information on whether Stokes had yet taken any such action.

Attempts to contact Stokes were unsuccessful.