Monday, May 25, 2009

What Happened to "Patch Parker" as a Result of South Carolina Vet Frank Hooper's Substandard "Care?"

The South Carolina Veterinary Board has demonstrated that, although it has a mission to "protect citizens by ensuring that only qualified and competent veterinary practitioners operate in South Carolina," like other vet boards, it doesn't seem particularly eager to publicize the details that gave rise to its disciplinary actions.

As a rule, South Carolina's "Consent Agreements" are lacking in adequate detail for a consumer to really figure out what happened. Why is this a problem?

This is a problem because, as a consumer, it is vitally important for us to know what the veterinarian did, so that we can evaluate and assess his or her behavior. This kind of information is critical for making informed choices about veterinary care.

So, it is a good thing that recently, the South Carolina Vet Board began making the "Formal Complaints" available on its website. The Formal Complaint is the document filed by the Veterinary Board charging the vet with violations, and it typically includes more detail than the final "Consent Agreement."

Nonetheless, the IMPACT on the patient of the vet's behavior is often omitted from both documents. Perhaps this is because vet boards do not want to state that the vets behavior actually caused the death or injury of the animal. And maybe they don't want to say so because they can't be sure that's true. On the other hand, maybe they don't want to say so because it would indicate to the consumer exactly how dangerous this vet may be. Goodness knows, we wouldn't want to give the consumer information that would steer him away from a vet, would we? Even if that vet had behaved dangerously. Oh, but there is that little problem of the mission statement . . .

Both the Consent Agreement and the Formal Complaint filed by the Board in the case of Frank Hooper and his treatment of Patch Parker are lacking one important fact, and leave the reader asking: "WHAT HAPPENED TO 'PATCH'?"

Well, I think we can make an educated guess. Here are the facts that we do know . . .

In the Formal Complaint, the Veterinary Board asserted that in January 2007 " . . . an American Pit Bull named 'Patch' was presented to Guingnard Veterinary Clinic incident to a severe limp. Patch could not place weight o his front right legl. Patch was examined by another veterinarian. The owner reports that the other veterinarian opined that the leg was fractured and required surgery. The owner provided consent to repair the fracture."

Two days later, vet Frank Hooper operated on Patch. The Board says that Hooper's "records do not document the completion of a physical examination of Patch before commencing surgery. [Hooper] did not notify Patch's owner that Patch's surgery would be more extensive than originally assumed by the other veterinarian."

[OK, what's that supposed to mean? Please tell me -- if you DO NOT conduct a physical exam of a patient prior to cutting into him, how the heck do you know you need to, uh, expand the surgery and make it more extensive?]

Hooper, the document says, did not contact the owners before surgery.

Then, the document says, "The surgical procedure was extended due to the unavailability of certain equipment, a personnel shortage, and the complexity of the procedure."

[Um, what? Did he not CHECK to make sure he had all the needed equipment and staff before starting????? So, basically, this dog was under anesthesia longer . . . ?????

Hooper, it says, ". . . interrupted the surgical process while the animal remained under anesthesia. [Hooper] permitted his technician to depart from the area without ensuring that someone monitored the animal. [Hooper] failed to ensure that the oxygen supplies for Patch's surgery were adequate and to ensure the availability of equipment that was necessary for Patch's surgery."

"A review of [Hooper's] records relating to this mattre reveal that a physical examination was not conducted prior to the procedure. [Hooper] failed to rcord the route of administation of Telazol, a controlled substance. [Hooper] did not record the dose and administration of Atropine."

The document goes on to cite the violations the Board charged Hooper with, which include failure to "provide or maintain proper facilities, engag[ing] in unprofessional or unethical conduct, and engag[ing] in incompetent or negligent conduct" as well as failure to provide proper supervision of the technician and failure to keep proper records for Patch's treatment and drug administration.

What the document does NOT say is what happened to Patch.

What do you think?

Is it your guess -- as it is mine -- that the dog probably DIED? After all, we have:

  • Failure to examine the dog prior to surgery

  • Expanding the surgery to make it more "extensive" without ever having examined the dog

  • Prolonged surgery in which the patient was apparently left under anesthesia while people left the area

  • Reference to inadequate oxygen supplies and inadequate equipment, as well as failure to record how much anesthetic drugs they gave Patch and how they were administered

Do you think -- without saying what happened to Patch -- consumer's will realize that this kind of behavior COULD LEAD to the death of a patient, whether or not it did?


Board Consent Agreement with Frank A. Hooper