Medical board votes to reprimand UF professor with checkered past
By Jeff Schweers
December 9, 2013
An administrative complaint by the Department of Health said Dr. Harold E. Smith failed to provide a standard of care in treating Alice Tomlinson, who died Dec. 21, 2010 after being admitted to the Central Florida Behavioral Hospital 10 days earlier.
She was admitted complaining of severe pain and depression and was already taking Klonopin and several other medications, the complaint said.
The complaint said Smith increased her Oxycontin and Klonopin dosages despite her apparent sedation, failed to stop giving her those two drugs and order a blood test after she appeared sedated and failed to consult with a specialist in internal medicine or pain management despite her complex condition and drug-seeking behavior.
The board rejected a settlement agreement offered by Department of Health lawyer Andre Ourso and Smith in which he would accept a reprimand, be fined $10,000, pay $6,000 in additional costs, undergo counseling and agree to take continuing medical education courses in the proper prescription of medicine.
Instead, the board made a counter-proposal to keep the same terms except for the continuing medication courses, and instead impose an evaluation by Florida Comprehensive Assessment and Remedial Education Services at UF before returning before the board for possible further action. Florida CARES is a special program that assesses a physician’s knowledge and competency.
Smith has seven days from the day of the ruling to accept or reject the counter-offer. But Vance Dawson, an Orlando lawyer representing Smith, said, “We are not going to accept their counter-offer. We will try this case before an administrative law judge.”
Smith has been on leave without pay for personal reasons since Friday night, at his request, UF Health officials said.
The Central Florida Behavioral Hospital has already settled with the patient’s husband and estate for an undisclosed sum, said Mac McLeod, who represents the patient’s husband and estate in a medical malpractice suit against Smith. A hearing is set for Jan. 7.
McLeod said he was satisfied that Smith is being reprimanded and required to meet the other conditions, but could not understand how UF could have hired Smith if it had conducted a full background check.
Smith was hired in July at an annual salary of $170,000, a month after the state filed its administrative complaint against him. He was an assistant professor and had hospital privileges at UF Health Shands Hospital, according to his state medical records.
Last week, UF Health officials said Smith was doing the job he was hired to do and the administration had no concerns about “his ability to practice medicine.”
This is Smith’s third disciplinary hearing before the Florida Board of Medicine since he got his state license in 1999. In October 2002, a complaint was filed that he prescribed Oxycontin to two family members and failed to maintain appropriate records. He agreed to pay a $5,000 fine, stop writing prescriptions for family members and take a course on how to properly prescribe abusable drugs
In February 2007, the medical board suspended Smith’s medical license after he admitted to relapsing to crack cocaine and opioid dependency. He failed to submit to a urine screen with the board’s Professional Resource Network, a program for impaired physicians.
In June 2007, the board reinstated his medical license and placed him on probation while he was under contract with PRN.
Smith’s medical license has been revoked in four other states — Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia — for drug and alcohol problems. He also had his certificate to prescribe Schedule II narcotics revoked by the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2011 after an investigation found he had falsified his 2002, 2005 and 2008 renewal applications by not disclosing disciplinary proceedings and actions against him.
“Only one of these material falsifications is necessary to support the revocation of respondent’s registration; that there are three such instances manifests a shocking level of dishonesty on his part,” DEA administrator Michele M. Leonhart wrote in her revocation order.