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New Medical Director at Texas Jail Previously Sanctioned

In December 2009, McLennan County, Texas commissioners Lester Gibson, Kelly Snell and Joe Mashek admitted that a candidate for the medical director’s position at the McLennan County Jail had previously been sanctioned by the Texas Medical Board. That didn’t stop them from hiring him, though.

A background check of Dr. John Wells revealed that in August 2006 he had been ordered to take 16 hours of addi-tional education in the areas of medical records and ethics and pay a $500 fine for failing to turn over a woman’s medical records to an insurance company despite repeated requests. As a result, she lost a medical disability claim.

Wells belittled the disciplinary action, saying the records weren’t released because he was out of town tending to a sick relative and had an office policy of not releasing records unless he was personally in the office. “I don’t see what this has to do with me taking this job as a medical director [for the jail],” he complained. “This is a dead issue.”

The disciplinary sanction was discussed during a closed-door executive session of the County Commissioners Court. The commissioners said Wells had committed to work 30 hours a week at the jail and promised to be personally involved in management and administrative duties, which overrode their concerns about his disciplinary record.

Gibson said the sanction was “nothing substantial,” adding that if Wells had “left a spoon in a patient after surgery, or he didn’t graduate from medical school, some major infraction related to patient care, then let it be known, because that would mean something of major concern.”
Texas Medical Board spokesperson Jill Wiggins said Wells’ sanction was for a minor administrative infraction, noting that around 65 Texas doctors are disciplined for administrative infractions each year.

However, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) did not take the disciplinary action quite as lightly. “Cer-tainly, anytime any medical director or medical attending physician for a county facility, anytime he or she is under some sort of watch for any respective medical board, it should be concerning for us, but it should be even more concerning for the people that have them employed,” stated TCJS executive director Adan Munoz. The TCJS has no say in hiring deci-sions at local jails.

Obviously, it should be a matter of concern when county commissioners want to put a recently-sanctioned physician in charge of their jail’s medical services. Of equal concern should be whether to hire an arrogant doctor with little regard for his patients. Further, if the disciplinary action against Wells was so trivial, why was it discussed in a closed session instead of during a public hearing?

Over the opposition of County Judge Jim Lewis and Commissioner Ray Meadows, Dr. Wells was offered a one-year, $250,000 renewable contract, which was approved by a majority of the McLennan County Commissioners Court in late December 2009. Wells began working as medical director at the jail on March 1, 2010.

Source: Waco Tribune-Herald

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