December 10, 1997 in Nation/World

Wallace Doctor Faces Sex Charges In Washington Hospital District Hired Physician Knowing He Could Lose License

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tags:ethics

A doctor who set up shop in Wallace this month stands accused of improper sexual conduct with four patients in Othello, Wash.

As a result, Dr. Jimmie L. Hutchison could lose his license to practice medicine in Washington and potentially in Idaho.

Officials at the East Shoshone Hospital District knew about the charges when they hired Hutchison, said administrator David Hughes.

“He was very forthright in telling me about it. His story is much different,” said Hughes, who would not elaborate. “We really think he was wronged and he’ll be vindicated.”

Hutchison’s hiring led to the reopening of the Wallace Medical Clinic. Hughes hopes that, in turn, will result in more admissions to the financially strapped Silver Valley Medical Center.

Neither Hutchison nor his attorney returned calls Tuesday.

When the married doctor made a formal response to the Washington state Medical Quality Assurance Commission, he admitted an intimate relationship with one patient. He denied all other charges.

The allegations date to Hutchison’s time at the 14th Avenue Medical Clinic in Othello, where he worked from 1989 through 1995.

According to the commission:

The doctor admitted a yearlong sexual relationship with one patient. He then joined that patient in trying to convince her employer to back-date a disability report so the patient could receive disability payments from an insurer and the state.

Hutchison quit after being confronted on the disability issue by the clinic’s manager. Four days later, he authorized an extension of disability for the patient.

He was sexually involved with a second patient. They were found naked by a cleaning woman in the clinic’s audio testing room.

Letters written by Hutchison to two other patients indicated that he had a sexual relationship with a third patient. He repeatedly called a fourth patient, asking for dates.

Coulee Community Hospital did not renew Hutchison’s privileges there, based on delayed care, lack of attention to patients and failure to complete medical charts. The hospital also cited the falsification of disability claims.

After leaving the Othello clinic, Hutchison worked for the Indian Health Service in Nespelem.

Last June, he applied for reinstatement of his medical license in Utah. It was refused, in part, because he lied on his application form, said spokesman Kim Morris of the Utah Division of Occupational Licenses.

Hutchison answered “no” when asked if his hospital privileges had ever been denied, Morris said.

Hutchison left Utah under a cloud several years ago. He was being investigated on charges related to the prescription of narcotics, Morris said. The Utah Drug Enforcement Administration, which conducted the investigation, could not immediately provide specifics on the case Tuesday.

Hutchison wanted to return to Utah so he could accept a job offer from a hospital in remote Milford.

Morris described Milford as “a microcosm of the rural health care dilemma in the United States. These small communities desperately need doctors, but the doctors want to have all the neat gadgets, so they don’t go there.”

As a result, he said, rural towns don’t always get the highest-quality doctors.

A hearing in Hutchison’s Washington case is scheduled for April.

The Medical Quality Assurance Commission could dismiss the charges, revoke Hutchison’s license, or impose some less drastic disciplinary action.

Hutchison is a native of Rupert, Idaho. He was licensed to practice in Idaho in 1979.

“We’re aware of what’s happening in Washington,” said Darlene Thorsted, director of the state Board of Medicine.

If another state revokes a doctor’s license, Idaho is free to do the same. The medical board normally takes such action, said Thorsted, although the doctor has another opportunity to be heard.

By hiring Hutchison, the East Shoshone Hospital District was able to reopen its Wallace Medical Clinic on Dec. 3. It is advertised as a family practice clinic with emphasis on women and children.

The clinic has been closed since July. That’s when Dr. Joseph Miller was evicted because he was not referring enough patients to the district’s cash-starved Silver Valley Medical Center.

At the time, Hughes said that the hospital district was looking for a replacement doctor who would help SVMC survive financially.

On Tuesday, he stood by the decision to bring in Hutchison.

“We think he’s a good doc,” Hughes said. “We’re going to give him a chance to prove it.”

, DataTimes

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