Prosecutors level new allegations against Cincinnati VA doctor

US Atty: Dr. Temeck failed to meet basic standard

CINCINNATI - Federal prosecutors filed a response in court that revealed some new details about the criminal case against Dr. Barbara Temeck, the former Cincinnati VA Medical Center administrator who is accused of illegally distributing a controlled substance.

The filing asserted that Dr. Temeck didn’t examine the patient before prescribing opioids.

A May 3 indictment alleged the former acting chief of staff illegally distributed Valium on two dates in 2012 and 2013 and Hydrocodone in 2013. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The indictment followed a 2016 report by the Scripps Washington Bureau and WCPO that showed Dr. Temeck improperly prescribed painkillers for the wife of her former boss, VA Network Director Jack Hetrick.

In an Aug. 18 filing, her attorneys asked for all charges to be dismissed, claiming Dr. Temeck is being selectively prosecuted for raising concerns about fraud, waste and abuse at the Cincinnati VA. In the government's Sept. 22 response, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Healey said it was Dr. Temeck’s own behavior that led to charges.

“The allegations in this case stem from Dr. Temeck unlawfully prescribing three controlled substances to a non-veteran patient who was not entitled to benefits or treatment from the VA during 2012 and 2013," Healey wrote. "She provide(d) the prescriptions after receiving nothing more than a phone call or an email from a colleague requesting the controlled substances for his spouse.” 

Healey doesn’t name the colleague, but the dates on the indictment match those on prescription documents for Hetrick’s wife, obtained by Scripps and WCPO in 2016.

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“Dr. Temeck failed to exercise even the most basic standard of medical care for the issuing of controlled substance prescriptions,” Healey claimed in the Sept. 22 filing. “First, Dr. Temeck had not physically examined or even seen the patient in the previous 6 years prior to providing the first and second controlled substance prescriptions. Dr. Temeck was in St. Louis when she provided the prescriptions and the patient was in Ohio. Second, Dr. Temeck failed to document any basis or notes for the prescriptions in a medical chart for the patient.”

Healey's filing said Dr. Temeck also failed to check an Ohio prescription reporting system, so she failed to discover that another physician had already prescribed a controlled substance for the patient.

“In effect, without so much as a physical examination or even a question about the medical purpose, Dr. Temeck provided controlled substances to the patient well above and beyond what the patient’s actual treating physician prescribed,” Healey wrote. “When confronted with the other controlled substance prescriptions, Dr. Temeck even stated she would not have provided her prescriptions had she known.”

In the court filing, Healey said the VA’s Office of Inspector General first interviewed Dr. Temeck about the prescriptions on Feb. 14, 2016. That’s about a week after Scripps and WCPO sought comment from the VA about a series of mismanagement complaints raised by Cincinnati VA whistleblowers, including the prescription allegations. The OIG officially opened its case file on Feb. 16. Dr. Temeck was demoted nine days later and Hetrick retired rather than face disciplinary action.

In the following month, Dr. Temeck voluntarily surrendered her DEA registration to write prescriptions for controlled substances and filed a whistleblower complaint against the VA. It alleges that Cincinnati whistleblowers “pointed the finger” at her because she was trying to root out waste and misuse of funds at the VA.

In his Aug. 18 motion to dismiss, Defense Attorney Ben Dusing said Dr. Temeck was “a care coordinator” for the patient in question, a role that “included accompanying her to various appointments, seeking out referrals for other physicians, and generally assisting this woman with her medical needs.”

Dusing said the patient was not a veteran but was “a former employee of the VA, married to a high ranking administrator of the VA and was seeking treatment as a result of injuries sustained while working at the VA.”

Dusing argued that the VA has failed to prosecute other doctors whose behavior was more egregious and Dr. Temeck was singled out for trying to halt practices that enriched UC doctors.

“The individuals at the VA who were upset with Dr. Temeck's disruption of the status quo saw an opportunity to rid themselves of the squeaky wheel and, therefore, seized upon these three prescriptions as a way to justify the completely unjustified suspension of Dr. Temeck, with the ultimate goal of terminating her employment,” Dusing wrote.

In his response, Healey wrote: “Dr. Temeck has offered no evidence the prosecution team - the VA-OIG and the United States Attorney’s Office - has any animus towards her … As she explains in her motion, the supposed 'witch hunt' is from 'groups of physicians and other medical professionals' from the Cincinnati VA Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center … Yet, the Veteran’s Health Administration and the University of Cincinnati, not the VA-OIG, employs these individuals. Their views and purported animus cannot be impugned to the intent of the prosecution team.”

U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett has scheduled a Nov. 6 trial date for Dr. Temeck.

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