Sunday, March 2, 2008

Minnesota Vet's License Finally Revoked after Horrifying, Long Track Record Regarding his Treatment of Both Pet Patients and Human Colleagues

The case of Todd Varnes provides a heartbreaking example of the many additional victims whose wellbeing and very lives are placed in jeapardy when veterinary boards allow vets who are known to be dangerous to continue practising.

From 1991 through 2004, veterinarian Todd Varnes has held veterinary licenses in Georgia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota.

In 2000, the Indiana Veterinary Board placed Varnes' license on indefinite suspension after issuing the following Findings of Fact:

"On January 13, 1996, [Varnes] undertook the care and treatment of patient N, a female canine that eight days earlier had undergone an ovariohysterectomy." (Spay.)

"Patient N presented with a history of recent bleeding and passing fluid from the area of the incision, including passing blood clots in the urine.

"[Varnes] diagnosed N with a urinary tract infection based on urinalysis findings. [Varnes] did not obtain a blood cell count to verify the presence of infection"

"[Varnes] failed to properly and adequately diagnose the condition of patient N . . . "

"[Varnes] failed to properly and adequately treat the suspected urinary tract infection, including but not limiting to prescribing an inadequate dosage of antibiotics."

"On September 8, 1996, [Varnes] undertook the care and treatment of patient B.B., a male feline suffering from multiple traumatic injuries."

"[Varnes] performed emergency surgery on B.B. on September 8, 1996."

"[Varnes] failed to adequately assess and repair the traumatic injuries to B.B. during surgery, including but not limited to failure to reestablish connective tissue and musculature continuity in areas where it had been torn from the rectum, anus, and penis."

[Comment: What is this cat doing with traumatic injuries to his rectum, anus, and penis? Would that not raise a flag to you?]

"[Varnes] failed to properly and adequately assess and diagnose B.B. for severe internal injuries sustained as a result of trauma, including but not limited to chest contusions, trauma to the mediastinum and cardiac system, and extensive bilateral lung trauma."

"In his care and treatment of B.B., [Varnes] failed to obtain radiology testing to assess and evaluate the patient's severe traumatic injuries." (That means he didn't take x-rays.)

"[Varnes] released B.B. to home on the day of the surgery, although the animal was unstable and in need of postoperative monitoring."

"[Varnes] assured B.B.'s owner that the animal was safely 'out of the woods' and failed to provide adequate instructions for monitoring and follow-up care."

"As a result of [Varnes] conduct described above, B.B. suffered unnecessarily and subsequently died on September 9, 1996."

"On November 14, 1996 [Varnes] was charged with the responsibility of the supervision of The Pet Practice, a 24 hour emergency animal hospital clinic located at 4030 West 86th Street, Indianapolis, Indiana."

"[Varnes] left the clinic at approximately 1:00 a.m. on November 14, 1996. [Varnes] did not return to the clinic during his shift."

"The veterinary technician assigned to work the night shift with [Varnes] on November 14 was a new employee on her first shift of work for The Pet Practice. The technician, S.E., was untrained and unfamiliar with this specific facility, and had not been oriented to the layout, policies, or procedures specific to The Pet Practice."

"[Varnes] was contacted by S.E. at approximately 6:00 a.m. on November 14, 1996, and given a report regarding an emergency patient who had presented for treatment."

"[Varnes] replied that he could not be present in the clinic in less than one hour's time to treat the animal reported to him by S.E."

The Board found Varnes in violation of statutes related to failure to supervise staff, failure to "exercise the reasonable care and diligence ordinarily exercised by members of his profession," and stated that he had become "unfit to practice due to failure to keep abreast of current professional theory or practice."

They indefinitely suspended his license.

So, what does Varnes do?

He begins practising in Minnesota, where, as of March 2004, the Board there had also launched an investigation against him.

I am beginning to get a clue as to why this guy may have licenses in FIVE states.

A public record available online from the State of Minnesota makes it clear that the actions described above were not the only complaints people had about Dr. Varnes while he was practicing in Indiana. The Minnesota document, available here:

Says that Varnes' "file from the Indiana veterinary practice contains negative information about Licensee's conduct, including statements that licensee failed to follow clinic policy by refusing to attend to certain patients; that the Indiana practice received numerous complaints from staff and clients regarding Licensee's treatment of them; and that Licensee handled an aggressive dog unnecessarily roughly; that Licensee, while in a fit of temper, threw all of the articles from a desk on the floor, cursed loudly enough that the clients in the lobby heard him and called one of the staff members a vulgar name."

So, how did Varnes behave when he moved to Minnesota?

The Minnesota Board said:

"The Board received complaints about [Varnes'] conduct while in practice at Affordacare Veterinary Clinic in Blaine, Minnesota. The complaints included allegations that [Varnes]:

Was unable to control his anger, became angry during his treatment of animals, and had fits of rage during which he screamed, threw objects, cursed, slammed doors, and left the clinic to drive around while animals were still under anesthesia;

Engaged in threatening and abusive conduct toward clinic staff;

Used profanity and made vulgar statements and statements of a sexual nature to female staff;

Engaged in abusive conduct toward animals, including being unnecessarily rough when moving animals, throwing animals or squeezing their limbs, and screaming at animals;

Performed declaw procedures on cats that were not fully anesthetized;

Failed to use a pulse oximeter during all surgeries when prevailing standards of practice would require the use of a pulse oximeter, including in the case of a dog that died after [Varnes'] veterinary technician failed to properly place an endotracheal tube and [Varnes] failed to check the endotracheal tube to ensure it was properly inserted;"

[Note: the endotracheal tube keeps the animal's airway open while they are anesthetized']

"Failed to render appropriate care to a sixteen year-old dog that had trouble breathing following dental extractions;

"Directed unlicensed veterinary technicians to extract animals' teeth, which constitutes unlicensed practice of veterinary medicine;

"Failed to maintain sterile packs for each set of surgical instruments and did not consistenly wear a gown, mask, or head covering during surgery; and

"Failed to comply with state and federal regulations regardign the maintenance of controlled substance records and inventory."

PHEW!!!! But get this -- it goes on to say:

"In connection with the [Minnesota] complaint review Committee's investigation of the complaints against him, [Varnes] voluntarily underwent a multidisciplinary assessement at Rush Behavioral Center in Downers Grove, Illinois. The evaluators diagnosed [Varnes] as having a personality disorder not otherwise specified with narcissistic and schizoid features . . . "

BUT GET THIS!!!! IN SPITE OF ALL OF THIS, the Minnesota Vet Board allowed Varnes to continue practising -- and continue treating Minnesota's pets on a "conditional" license. The conditions, being basically that he participate in specified mental health counseling, and well - stop behaving the way he had been behaving.

These conditions were placed on his license in Marcy 2004, and in September 2004 the Minnesota Board finally revoked his license after he continued racking up new violations so heinous that they boggle the mind. Frankly, it seems that Varnes was thumbing his nose at the Vet Board and the world.

In September 2004, the Vet Board found that between March 31, 2004 and September 1, 2004, Varnes did the following things while practising at a clinic he owns in Blaine, Minnesota:

". . . employed abusive language directed at clinic staff and other veterinarians . . . "

". . . made degrading or demeaning comments . . . including calling female staff 'worthless broads' . . . and criticizing the veterinarian's surgeries in front of other staff" (HA! He's got his nerve!)

" . . . was very angry exiting an examination room and knocked a receptionist into a hallway wall"

". . . threw objects . . . "

" . . . authorized veterinary technicians to perform dental extractions and give diagnoses over the telephone . . . "

Violations related to drug storage and recordkeeping related to drugs

Also, according to signed affidavits from veterinarians and veterinary technicians, he:

"[Varnes] masked down dogs and cats for anesthesia isoflurane alone without any pre-anesthetic, causing many of the animals to struggle, whine, urinate, defecate or express their anal glands while the gas anesthesia was being administered. Many dogs licensee anesthetized without a pre-anesthetic required three people to restrain them . . " These animals were terrorized!

"[Varnes] had no pain management protocol in place for his surgical patients and did not provide pain relief for multiple animals" after surgery

"[Varnes] did not take any measures to prevent post-surgical hypothermia in animals or to adequately monitor them. The animals were simply put in cages after surgery. [Varnes] used no warming blankets or other heating devices and there was not even any bedding in the cages. In addition, the animals were not monitored after they were put in the cages."

Varnes "did not intubate cats for ovariohysterectomies." [Intubation is important to keep the airway open so that the animal can breath!)]

Varnes "talked on the telephone for up to 15 or 20 minutes while animals were under anesthesia, thereby unnecessarily increasing the anesthetic risk to the animals."

That isn't even all of what the staff alleged, you have to read it.

Varnes admitted many of these allegations, and denied others.

With his licensed finally revoked in September 2004, Varnes was eligible to reapply for license reinstatement 3 years later.

My question is this

Do not the veterinary boards bear some responsibility for the many victims of this man, for failure to take strong enough action sooner -- when this many had an 8 year multi-state record? Most especially -- when the GRAVE dangers Varnes posed were KNOWN in March 2004, when Minnesota could have revoked his licensed THEN, instead of allowing him to continue practising on "conditions" -- isn't the Minnesota Veterinary Board personally responsible for each and every one of Varnes' victims in the period of March 2004-September 2004?

I believe they are.

Many thanks to the dedicated staff -- other veterinarians and vet techs -- who obviously had to persist time and time again to finally get Minnesota to stop this guy from practising.

But my question is --

Is he now headed to YOUR state?