OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision has postponed a disciplinary hearing for a former state health commissioner who pleaded guilty in the state Health Department scandal.
The panel on Thursday was to consider suspending the medical license of Dr. Jerry Nida for two or three months. But Nida's attorney told board members that his client could not complete a required 240 hours of community service at a free clinic in Oklahoma City if he didn't have his medical license.
Coupled with impending hip surgery for the 68-year-old, the nine-member board opted to delay a ruling in Nida's case until its March meeting.
``This is the first win I've had in two years,'' Nida said after the board's decision.
As part of the Health Department's ``ghost'' employee scandal, Nida pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the state. He admitted approving inaccurate time sheets to allow a sick deputy commissioner to get paid despite missing work.
Robert W. Cole, Nida's attorney, told the licensure board that Nida works about six hours a week at the Variety Health Clinic, which serves underprivileged people and senior citizens.
Losing the Oklahoma medical license Nida has had since 1960 would be like ``a lethal injection'' for even a short period if Nida wants to finish the community service hours by December, Cole said.
Elizabeth A. Scott, assistant attorney general, however, said Nida could complete the community service hours on time even if his license were suspended for a few months.
Once Nida pleaded guilty to the felony, his medical license was automatically placed under review.
The medical board said Thursday that Nida could have his license to practice suspended or even revoked because he ``engaged in dishonorable or immoral conduct'' and ``procured, aided or abetted a criminal operation.''
The disciplinary hearing was postponed until the licensure panel's next meeting March 14 and 15.
Nida was the Health Department's commissioner for six years before resigning. He later was indicted by a state grand jury.