I was initially drawn to the story because of the similarities to the fiasco at Grady Hospital in Atlanta. Here is the unbelievable story of Dr. Blake Moore's attempt to battle corruption in South Carolina.
Williamsburg Regional Hospital is the only hospital located in Williamsburg County, South Carolina, the poorest County in South Carolina as measured by income level. Despite being the only hospital in the County, in 1999 Williamsburg Regional Hospital was on the verge of near collapse. It was only serving about ten percent of the population of Williamsburg County with most folks choosing to be treated at hospitals in surrounding counties.
Desperate to turn around the fortunes of the hospital, hospital CEO, David Bouchet, recruited Dr. Blake Moore to not only be the general surgeon but to develop a plan to bring more profitability to the hospital. At a hospital with limited resources like Williamsburg, the role of the general surgeon is also one of the jack of all trades. That's because any situation or question that cannot be answered by the attending physician or nurse falls on the general surgeon to answer. Dr. Moore had gained a reputation by publishing numerous articles in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons and thus had the sort of credibility necessary to turn around the struggling hospital.
Right away, Dr. Moore attributed the financial malaise to simple yet systemically poor patient care. As general surgeon, Dr. Moore became involved in one way or another in the care of nearly every single patient in the hospital. By leading an effort to increase the quality of care, Dr. Moore also created an environment where more patients were satisfied and thus word of mouth spread and the hospital's reputation was turned around. Dr. Moore lead a remarkable revolution at Williamsburg and within three months nearly every measure of viability: operating room patients, hospital census, patients staying overnight, had increased exponentially.
This turnaround continued for several years when Dr. Moore was approached by the Quality Assurance officer at Williamsburg. The QA officer had discovered in one file something that looked awfully suspicious. An elderly patient had died a few weeks prior. The patient had come in with all sorts of ailments and eventually suffered a full kidney shutdown. The chart had shown that a nurse, Lynette Vaughn, had administered Kayexalate (a drug that lowers potassium levels in the body which is what is needed during kidney failures) the day before the patient died. For some reason though, the same nurse had also written in the chart that she administered potassium in the patient the day after he died also on the VERBAL order of Dr. Moore.
Of course, it is absurd for a doctor to order any prescriptions on a patient after they died. This is made even more absurd by the fact that potassium is the exact opposite of what the patient would have needed anyway. Dr. Moore immediately began an investigation. He concluded that it was most likely that the nurse, Lynnette Vaughn, had accidentally taken the potassium by mistake (which is often placed next to kayexalate in the pharmacy) and then attempted to haphazardly try and cover up her mistake.
He immediately spoke to the head nurse, Patricia Lowder. Dr. Moore wanted Vaughn suspended immediately. Vaughn had apparently faced several personal issues at the time of the incident and Moore felt that Vaughn may be a threat to patients. Lowder dismissed the notion out of hand and according to Dr. Moore she became territorial and hostile. She closed ranks around Vaughn and protected her job. (Subsequently, evidence came out that Lowder had participated in the cover up after the fact...that is according to the finds of the State's nursing board) (it should be further noted that Dr. Moore was born and raised in Philly and likely seen as an outsider by most of the folks who spent their entire lives in South Carolina)
A few months later there was another incident. The same QA person noticed something odd again. This time the QA person noticed an anomoly in the pharmaceutical records. There was an elderly female who was diagnosed with colon cancer. The patient had days and weeks at the most and all that could be done was to make the patient as comfortable as possible. Dr. Moore had ordered 5 mg of morphine for the patient every two hours. Yet, according to the pharmaceutical records, the same nurse, Lynette Vaughn, had taken out 50 mgs of morphine for this patient just prior to their death.
This time there was no mention of the extra morphine in the patient's chart. In other words, it appeared as though Vaughn had tried to correct her initial mistake in getting caught the first time by making no mention of it in the chart. For whatever reason, Vaughn never accounted for the paper trail she would cause at the pharmacy.
Now, in Dr. Moore's mind, it was irrefutable. He believed he was dealing with a serial killer. Morphine is administered in syringes with a capacity of 5 mgs. That means someone loaded up ten syringes and administered each one after another. To add to the confusion, Dr. Moore wasn't even called in to declare the patient dead when it happened. The staff called in another doctor, Dr. Raymond Allen, to declare the patient dead. The patient wound up at the morgue before anyone had a chance to investigate. Had the pharmacy discrepancy not been discovered it would have been overlooked.
Dr. Moore went to the head nurse, the new hospital CEO, Jim Rogers, and then to the Chief of Staff, Frank Trefny, and was denied by all and told to mind his own business. The entire administration hierarchy had closed ranks around Vaughn. Undeterred, Dr. Moore contacted his personal attorney who also duelly was lead general counsel for the hospital, Ernie Jarrett. Jarrett listened to Moore and took all of the evidence he had and told him he would work on it. Several weeks later, a member of the Hospital board, Harry Floyd (who turned out to be his only ally on the board) contacted Dr. Moore and told him that word was spreading that the hospital was actively seeking to replace him.
Then, a few weeks later, Ernie Jarrett sends Dr. Moore a letter stating that he no longer represent Dr. Moore because he duelly represents the hospital. (something that of course was always the case)
Getting no relief within the hospital hierarchy, Dr. Moore then took his evidence to the State's nursing board. The board heard the evidence and took the most aggressive step they could, they revoked the licenses of both Lynette Vaughn and of Pat Lowder. In a move of stunning chutzpah, the hospital continued to maintain each of the nurse's on staff. The revokation of each of their licenses had the practical effect of not allowing either to have any contact with any patients. Thus, in brutal irony, Vaughn was given the job of Quality Assurance Officer. Lowder was actually allowed to stay on as head nurse however with no contact with patients.
A few months after this, an anasthesiologist of Ghanan descent accused Dr. Moore of using racially charged language toward her including referring to her by the N word. Dr. Moore was immediately suspended from his duties. The contrast between the way that Dr. Moore was handled and the manner in which the two nurses should be profound.
By this point, Dr. Moore had hired a new attorney, Hank Anderson. At Dr. Moore's disciplinary hearing, Anderson was able to shake the anasthesiologist until she admitted that she not only made up the story but that she had been ordered to do so by the hospital CEO, Jim Rogers. (there were also rumors of an affair between the two)
Dr. Moore was immediately allowed to return to his duties. Within weeks, another nurse, Windola Pitts, approached Dr. Moore with a situation. She had found a specimen in a bottle with a chunk of tissue and that specimen wasn't identified. Dr. Moore told her to immediately send the sample to pathology as a John Doe sample and run the battery of tests. By a full battery of tests, they should have been able to determine who the sample belonged to and what if any ailments the patient had.
Prior to sending it to pathology, Pitts approached her superviser, Pat Lowder, for approval. According to Pitts, Lowder dismissed the idea out of hand, grabbed the sample and threw it in the garbabe, and told her there would be no more hassles.
Upon hearing this, Dr. Moore had had enough. He approached the CEO and gave him one week to straighten things out including removing Lowder immediately. If not, Dr. Moore would approach every regulatory body in the state until action was taken. The next day, Dr. Moore was contacted by Floyd, the board member, again. Floyd told Dr. Moore to watch his back. Within days, Dr. Moore had received a frantic phone call from his wife, Angela. She was at the police station and their three foster children had been removed from their custody by the Department of Social Services of South Carolina. She had been charged with the nebulous charge of aggravated domestic criminal violence or otherwise known as spanking.
Dr. Moore contacted his attorney and upon investigation new remarkable information had surfaced. The complaint was filed by Dr. Moore's previous attorney, Ernie Jarrett, and in a move of unprecedented brazenry, Jarrett filed the charges on his own company's stationary.
Within days, more trouble had happened. Savannah, his six year old foster daughter, had told the case worker that she was sexually assaulted in her new foster home. Furthermore, while Savannah was immediately removed the other two children, Jacob and Andrew, remained in the same care.
Dr. Moore began to threaten everyone with lawsuits. He threatened to take the case wherever it needed to go in order to hold everyone responsible. The case against his wife was subsequently heard and dismissed however the children still weren't returned.
As if this wasn't enough, within months DSS filed new charges again this time against both Dr. Moore and his wife. This time they were filed in an adjoining county, Florence County. While it is not totally clear why these charges weren't filed in their home county, the most likely scenario would be that the charges were shopped so to speak until they finally found a case worker somewhere to sign off.
The second rape charge put Dr. Moore's wife over the edge and she eventually committed suicide. Meanwhile, those charges are always supposed to remain totally confidential. That didn't stop the hospital from using the charges to suspend Dr. Moore again. This time he was suspended for suspicion of being a pedophile. While those charges were also later dropped, the hospital not only refused to give Dr. Moore his position back but also refused to remove the charges from the national databank. This means the pedophilia charge is available for any potential employer.
The last four years Dr. Moore has navigated the state and federal court systems to simultaneously get custody of his foster kids back and to restore his reputation. This includes several motions, hearings, and appearances in front of South Carolina courts. The South Carolina courts have each time ruled against him. Furthermore, the Attorney General of South Carolina, Henry McMaster, has become actively involved in the case himself for sometime. The AG's office has written several briefs, and made several court appearances on behalf of the hospital. Furthermore, the states DSS office falls under the jurisdiction of the AG's office. Furthermore, the state's governor, Mark Sanford, has remained silent on this matter throughout his term. Dr. Moore tells me that he spoke personally with the LT. Governor, Andre Bauer, and Bauer told him there was nothing the governor's office could do. Furthermore, during McMaster's last campaign, his campaign manager was one Bill Jenkinson, of Jenkinson, Jarrett, and Kellahan...yes the same Jarrett.
Henry McMasters then wound up running for Governor all while using the office AG to go after Dr. Moore. The election is still unfolding.
Dr. Moore is unfortunately not the only doctor to fall victim to the hideous and evil practice of sham peer review. For other such stories, please check out other such stories like a doctor in South Carolina that was targeted for reporting on a serial killer nurse, a doctor in Texas targeted by Blue Cross/Blue Shield, a nurse that was targeted after he reported on illegal drug testing at his hospital, the Texas Medical Board's systematic targeting of doctors, and the tragic case of obscene corruption at Atlanta's Grady Hospital. Finally, you can check out a similar case in which a doctor in Rhode Island was also targeted after she reported on suspected child abuse.
Please check out my new books, "Bullied to Death: Chris Mackney's Kafkaesque Divorce and Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and the World's Last Custody Trial"