Doctor Fighting Contract Termination

Thursday, May 8th 2008, 10:20 pm
By: News On 6

More than a thousand low-income patients were told they can no longer see their Claremore doctor. News On 6 anchor Jennifer Loren reports the State of Oklahoma terminated that doctor's contract with them. The doctor says it's the state and their review procedure that needs to be investigated, not him.

On any given day, Dr. Henry Wittenberg's waiting room is full, but on Thursday, it was full of patients who don't have appointments. They were fighting to get their doctor back.

Most of Dr. Wittenberg's patients are children, but almost all of his 1,500 patients pay for their doctor's visits through Sooner Care and Medicaid.

However, Dr. Wittenberg's contract with Sooner Care and Medicaid was just terminated by the state.

"And so, I'm not understanding why. Sooner Care people can't afford and don't want to go to anyone else," said Melissa Branch.

Dr. Wittenberg doesn't understand why either.

"My contract was cancelled under what I consider really fraudulent circumstances," said Dr. Wittenberg.

After a review by a state-contracted company, called APS Healthcare, Dr. Wittenberg received a letter citing several deficiencies in his patients' charts.

Here are the five deficiencies listed:

No. 1: His handwriting was illegible.

No. 2: The charts showed no record of introductory letters before he made referrals.

No. 3 & 4: He didn't write enough notes per visit.

No. 5: Prescribing antibiotics over the phone.

All of those, according to APS, made the doctor a level three violator, someone who presents an imminent danger to the health of his patients or places them in high risk situations.

Dr. Wittenberg doesn't believe those complaints are putting anyone in imminent danger and wonders if the state realizes what they've done.

"When they did away with my contract they took away my ability to take care of these people, some of whom I've taken care of for thirty years," said Dr. Wittenberg.

The Oklahoma agency in charge would not give an on-camera interview, but instead released a statement.

It says Doctor Wittenberg was asked to participate in a corrective action plan and that they spent months trying to resolve the issue through the use of that plan. However, Dr. Wittenberg declined to sign it and a termination process was initiated on his Medicaid contract.

For Dr. Wittenberg, signing that corrective plan means admitting he's a level three violator and puts his patients in danger. Even now, he refuses to sign it and therefore is forced to refuse care.

"Because I didn't do what they said," said Dr. Wittenberg.  "And I'm not admitting to something I didn't do."

According to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, all of Dr. Wittenberg's Sooner Care and Medicaid patients were assigned a new doctor.

Of the patients The News On 6 talked to, some say they'd been reassigned to doctors all the way in Tulsa and Miami, others say they received no notification.

Dr. Wittenberg continues to appeal his termination.