Stillwater doctor cleared of violating patient confidentiality

Friday, July 5th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A Stillwater pediatrician accused of violating patient confidentiality by talking to a newspaper reporter has been cleared.

The Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision has dismissed a case against Dr. Robert Wright. He was accused of violating the Oklahoma Medical Practice Act for talking to a Tulsa World reporter about the death of a Muskogee girl who was not his patient.

Officials never told the doctor he was cleared.

A March 26 letter by Michael D. Kiser, director of investigation for the licensure board, says the case was dismissed. The letter was written to Howard J. Pallotta, attorney for the Health Care Authority.

Wright and his attorney, Louis Bullock, said they were not aware that the case was closed.

Lyle Kelsey, director of the licensure board, said he did not realize Wright was not notified.

Wright said he called Kelsey on June 13 to ask for a letter outlining the complaint, but he never received the letter.

The case began in April, when the Health Care Authority wrote to the board's executive director complaining that Wright had told the media that 5-year-old Elizabeth Gatzman was a Medicaid patient and that she received treatment in January.

A newspaper article focused on Gatzman's Jan. 23 death, caused by growths in her throat cutting off her airway. The girl was scheduled to have the growths removed with laser surgery, but the surgery never occurred.

Doctors have said the girl's death was preventable had she had the surgery.

Wright told the newspaper that he checked the Health Care Authority's computer system and discovered Elizabeth's primary doctor was changed in September, which could have played a role in the surgery mix-up.

Kiser determined that because Wright had no physician-patient relationship with the girl, ``there could be no confidentiality privilege to violate.''

``If there was any breach of the Health Care Authority's internal security measures, your agency could take appropriate action,'' Kiser's letter said.

Wright and other pediatricians are involved in a lawsuit against the Health Care Authority. The doctors claim poor children don't have access to medical care because state reimbursement rates are so low.