Saturday, September 13, 2008

South Carolina Vet Robert Moorhead: " . . . engaged in incompetent or negligent conduct"; does surgery on dog's leg without taking x-rays first

I find it interesting that "bad vets" tend to maintain licenses in multiple states. Usually, these states are contiguous or near each other. But Robert M. Moorhead, DVM, had licenses in Colorado and South Carolina in recent years.

I also find it interesting how many "bad vets" either are involved, or get involved, in the horse business, after a history of violations on smaller companion animals.

In early Fall 2001, a pet owner brought his dog to Moorhead's clinic, after the dog had been struck by a car.

Moorhead did not have an x-ray machine at his clinic. But that didn't stop Moorhead from diagnosing the dog's injuries and proceeding with surgery, which he did the next day. According to the board document, Moorhead "performed an open reduction in which he inserted a pin into the femur and wrapped the break with wire mesh inside the leg."

Subsequently, the pin Moorhead had placed in the dog's leg started to come out. Moorhead then "removed the pin" (?? did that involve another surgery??) and "placed the dog's leg in a soft cast." The following month, the dog started to develop an open sore. The owner took his dog back to Moorhead, and Moorhead did ANOTHER surgery. According to the Board document, this time Moorhead:

"removed bone chips from the leg and inserted two pins from the stifle joint and into the femur."

Two months later (December), Moorhead examined the dog and sent him for x-rays at another clinic. The document does not say what these x-rays showed. It does not say what Moorhead saw on them, or if he even ever reviewed them.

Subsequently, on Christmas Eve, the owner ended up taking his dog to the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Emergency clinic. On January 4, the dog's leg had to be amputated,

"because the leg had never healed, the hip joint had been broken, and the knee joint had been destroyed by the pinning procedure."

So, I'm sure that many of the same questions that come to my mind are in yours right now, such as:

"Was the dog's hip broken from the original accident, and Moorhead missed it and failed to do anything about it? If so, is this because he had no x-ray equipment and decided he could simply diagnose all the dog's injuries on exam alone? Or, did the dog's hip subsequently break because of stress from walking with a broken, improperly or inadequately pinned leg?"

"Was incompetent treatment on the part of Moorhead responsible for, or a contributing factor to, the dog ultimately having to have his leg amputated? Had he received more competent treatment, would he have been able to keep his leg??

The South Carolina Board found that Moorhead had failed to keep adequate records when he saw the dog in September and October. They go into some detail about the recordkeeping violations in their decision, including Moorhead's failure to document the type and amount of anesthesia given the dog.

Interestingly, they slip another citation into the document, referencing only the code violated. But unlike the recordkeeping violation, the South Carolina Vet Board doesn't bother to tell the reader what that section of code pertains to. Of this violation, the document says only:

"The Respondent has violated S.C. Code Ann. 40-69-140(1) (2001) in that the Respondent violated regulations of the Board, specifically, Regulation 120-6.1."

Hmm, what in the heck is 120-6.1?

Why do they gloss over that, without quoting what that violation is about, whereas -- by contrast -- they go into detail about the meaning of the recordkeeping violations?

This is supposed to be a public record. Yet, I believe, the way the Board has drafted this (and other) findings of fact, is a deliberate attempt to protect the offending vet, and a deliberate attempt to "hide in plain sight" the worst violations. To hide this from the public, specifically the pet owning public. To keep them from having this information as the basis of making decisions about Moorhead as a vet.

They know that most readers won't spend the time it takes (which can be SIGNIFICANT) to search through the South Carolina Code, find this section, and reference it so that they can interpret what it means.

But, this sneaky little citation is the most important one. And thanks to the Colorado Veterinary Board -- where Moorhead was also licensed -- we know what this violation means.

In 2004, the Colorado Vet Board disciplined Moorhead as a result of his South Carolina violation. Their order states:

"The South Carolina Board also found that the respondent . . . engaged in incompetent or negligent conduct in the practice of veterinary medicine by failing to take preliminary radiographs to determine the best method of fracture repair in order to facilitate a complete return of function of the patient's leg."

Well, thanks, Colorado Vet Board: If it weren't for you, we might never have known the SC Board found him incompetent or negligent.

Just goes to prove that public records aren't always all that accessible to the public in all senses of the word.

However, we can't thank either the South Carolina Board OR the Colorado Board for taking anything like serious action in this case.

The South Carolina Vet Board suspended Moorhead's license to practice, but IMMEDIATELY stayed the suspension. "Stayed" means that not even one day of the suspension was enforced.

They put Moorhead on probation for 2 years with terms that include providing "quarterly reports of four cases" (presumably of his own choosing) to the Board, including one surgical case and four medical cases.

They also required him to retroactively RE-CREATE records for this case.

In other words, after finding him to have been negligent or incompetent, they are disciplining him by ordering him to do another surgery and submitting information about that.

They did, at least, order him to get an x-ray machine before doing this (or any other) surgery and to take 10 hours of continuing education in orthopedics and anesthesia, respectively.

And after finding him in violation of recordkeeping in this case, they are not merely inviting him, but ordering him, to retroactively create records for this patient nearly 2 years after-the-fact.

Gee, wonder how factual truthful, and accurate those records will be????

They fined him $500 and the costs of the investigation.

Colorado also suspended his license and immediately stayed the suspension, enforcing not one day of it.

They put him on probation for a little over a year or until the South Carolina order's provisions were met.

Oh, about that horse thing:

A websearch of Robert M. Moorhead finds this:

Robert Moorhead listed at Carolina Sport horses

Gee sport horses? I bet they have their share of orthopedic injuries. I'd be concerned about their care.


South Carolina Board Order


Colorado Orders: