Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Long List of Violations Results in Nothing More than a Reprimand and Probation for Virginia Vet, Mitzi Elliot

In March of 2008, the Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine issued an order to Virginia Veterinarian Mitzi D. Elliot of "The Animal House Veterinary Clinic" in Laurel Fork, Virginia. In this document, the Board stated the following findings of fact (my commentary appears in brackets and italics).

1. A cat named "Kitty" was brought to Dr. Elliot for a routine spay. "To sedate Kitty, a "Push-Pole" was utilized, and Kitty was given an intramuscular injection." [Push pole??? Are they talking about those things they use on animal planet rescue shows called "catch poles?" Like this?? Or are they talking about these push pole things for pushing boats and catching fish?? Either way, a bit mideivel, don't you think?]

The day after Dr. Elliot did these things, ". . . Kitty could not walk on her right hind leg, and was returned to Dr. Elliot's office for an evaluation. Dr. Elliot diagnosed Kitty with a large right lymph node, and prescribed antibiotics. When Kitty failed to improve [Kitty's owner] sought a second opinion from another veterinarian who amputated Kitty's leg. Dr. Elliott failed to take proper precautions administering an intramuscular injection, resulting in damage to Kitty's sciatic nerve."

[OK, did you catch that part about the cat's leg being amputated? I am assuming that the need for this amputation RESULTED FROM the damage caused to Kitty's sciatic nerve as a result of Dr. Elliot's bad vettery. THIS POOR CAT LOST ITS LEG!]

3. "Dr. Elliott failed to document all pertinent medical data in Kitty's medical record. Specifically, Dr. Elliott failed to describe the surgery performed, the diagnosis and/or prognosis, post-operative instructions and treatment recommendations. Additionally . . . Dr. Elliott failed to document patient temperature during the course of treatment."

But Dr. Elliott's bad vettery wasn't restricted to the Kitty incident. The Board goes on:

"4. Dr. Elliott failed to maintain treatment records for the animals brought to her practice. By her own admission, Dr. Elliott sent [two other client's] original records to subsequent veterinarians and did not maintain copies." [Really? Or perhaps the records never existed, were never created, and that's just what she said to play it off as though she had created them in the first place and to explain why she didn't have them?] "Further, Dr. Elliott stated to the inspector for the Department of Health Professions, that she were [sic] not aware of the requirement to maintain records for three years."

5. ". . . [another client] presented with 'Sugar' and 'Daisy', both canines, following a routine spay performed at Dr. Elliott's practice. . . . Both dogs had chewed through their stitches. Dr. Elliott replaced the stitches with staples, but failed to document the type and amount of anesthesia used for placing the staples. Further the records for Daisy did not indicate if an antibiotic was administered and the amoung given."

[OK, the board would not know about this if a complaint had not been filed. Why would the owner file a complaint? SOMETHING must have gone wrong after the surgery. Given the reference to Elliott NOT documenting the kind or amount of anesthesia, I am betting something very bad happened with one or both of these dogs -- I suspect that one may even have died. You see, the Board's don't always tell you what happened to the animals, so you must ALWAYS ASSUME THE WORST.]

6. "Dr. Elliott failed to provide complete records for [yet another client's] canine 'Angel Baby.' Dr. Elliott's records did not include the date of Angel Baby's rabies innoculation and ex-rays taken."

[Geez, we are establishing quite a prolonged and consistent pattern of bad vettery here, aren't we?]

7. YET ANOTHER CLIENT: ". . . presented with 'Prince,' a canine, who had been in an altercatoin with another dog. Prince was admitted with multiple abdominal puncture wounds and shock. When Prince failed to improve . . . [the client] transferred Prince to another veterinarian who found several deep puncture wounds that were not treated; a deep necrotic tract extending dorsally through deep layers of tissue into the sub lumbar region in the retroperitoneal area; and a 3 cm abdominal tear."

[OK, don't worry -- I don't understand all of that either, so I googled some of the words. The "deep necrotic tract" business means that Prince had lots of dead tissue on his lower back going deep into his flesh, into the "peritoneum" which covers the abdominal cavity . . .]

"Further, the veterinarian opined that the Penrose drain that Dr. Elliott inserted may have been improperly placed, which allowed continued saturation of bacteria into the internal wounds. Dr. Elliott failed to properly evaluate, diagnose, and treat Prince's injuries."

[Again, the don't say what happened to Prince, but it sounds VERY grave. I am assuming he DIED.]

8. "Dr. Elliott failed to document all pertinent medical data in Prince's medical record. Specifically, Dr. Elliott failed to describe the surgery performed, the diagnosis and/or prognosis, and treatment recommendations."

[Gee, big surprise. What would that prognosis sound like? Maybe: "Well, I did a totally incompetent job and now this patient had infection deep into his body so -- whoopsie! Where's the pink juice?"]

Whew! After that LITANY of horrors what do we have?

The Board determined that Elliott had committed SEVEN violations of regulation VAC 150-20-140(6) and (7), which is the UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT section, including (emphasis mine): "Practising veterinary medicine in such a manner as to ENDANGER the health and welfare of his patients or the public, or being unable to practice veterinary medicine with reasonable skill and safety."

Also they found that she had committed FIVE violations of 18-VAC-150-20-195, which is the regulation pertaining to recordkeeping. (See what I mean when I say that when you see a record-keeping violation, it usually means that something much worse happened.)

After all that you would expect the Board to take pretty strong action, wouldn't you?

Well, guess what?

They reprimanded her.

They put her on "probation" for 18 months but the only terms of the probation were:

a) to take 3 hours of continuing education in record-keeping and 10 hours in patient communication and practice management. NOTHING in improving her skills in clinical care -- her basic veterinary skills. Nothing to improve her competence at actually doing procedures. As though what happened to these animals was all a result of communication problems? Um, did they forget the part about the leg amputation and the internal infection?

b) to have 3 inspections in which they will look at her records and pay the $200 cost of the inspections.

That's it, folks. They didn't give this vet a "time out." Not one day of work missed. No suspension. No big fines. Not even any classes that would improve her clinical skills -- just classes that in my view, are aimed at helping her learn to cover her butt when her lousy clinical skills hurt patients.


Board Disciplinary Action Against Mitzi Elliott