A physician who has been publicly censured by the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts owns the building that houses Lawrence Memorial Hospital South, officials said Monday.
Dr. Howard Ellis, a Lenexa obstetrician-gynecologist, was accused of malpractice and using falsified records.
Ellis admits no wrongdoing in the consent order filed with the Kansas board last week but did agree to a public censure and a $5,000 fine. He also said he would reimburse the board $7,000 for its investigation and legal costs.
"It was a voluntary settlement," said Ellis' attorney, Steve Schwarm. "His license in the state of Kansas remains active and unencumbered."
Ellis owns the building leased by LMH South at Clinton Parkway and Kasold Drive, said Janice Early-Weas, director of communications for Lawrence Memorial Hospital. She said he also is co-owner of a second building there leased by LMH's Mount Oread Family Practice.
Early-Weas said Ellis has never had privileges to practice at the hospital and serves in no capacity with either facility.
Ellis was at the center of a controversy in July 2005 when Gov. Kathleen Sebelius appointed him to a four-year term on the board of healing arts. The appointment came two months after Ellis voluntarily retired his medical license in Missouri rather than face a disciplinary hearing in that state. He admitted no wrongdoing.
Ellis had served 12 years on the board under previous governors and was board president from 1996 to 1997 and 2002 to 2003. The board oversees the licensing of physicians, investigates complaints about professional misconduct and issues discipline for violations of state regulations.
Most of his alleged violations date to when he was on the board.
Among the accusations in the Kansas board's petition, filed in February 2006, is that Ellis tried to persuade another physician to alter records and submitted erroneous medical records to investigators in a case. It also claims Ellis failed to tell the Kansas board on his 2005 license renewal form that he had surrendered his license in another state in a disciplinary proceeding.
National authorities said only a few state boards have faced disciplining one of their own before.
"I would say it is not unheard of, but it is rare," said Lisa Robin, vice president of the Federation of State Medical Boards.
One patient advocate said Ellis should have received a higher penalty, noting the board has the power to revoke a doctor's license or place the doctor on probation with a number of conditions.
"The combination (of allegations) is certainly serious enough to merit more than a fine and a letter of censure," said Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen Health Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization that had been critical of the medical board for handing out light discipline. "The Kansas board failed to take a serious action."
Board member Dr. Roger Warren of Hanover, who was involved in negotiations with Ellis, couldn't speak directly to the case but said, "This was the best we could get."
Warren said physicians coming before the board on disciplinary matters typically have good legal representation.
"They're very hard to prosecute, very hard to make a charge stick without expending a lot of funds," he said, adding that the board's annual budget has been cut to $1 million.
Wolfe's organization ranks Kansas 36th in the nation for serious disciplinary actions taken by state medical boards, saying that Kansas averaged 2.87 actions per year from 2004 to 2006 for every 1,000 physicians in the state.
The figures don't count less serious discipline, such as censures or reprimands.
Missouri's board, however, is ranked sixth with 5.43 actions per 1,000 physicians.
"One state is improving significantly; the other is stagnant," Wolfe said. "This (Ellis case) is an example of the difference."
Larry Buening, the Kansas board's executive director, disagreed, saying the board disciplined more doctors in 2006 and does well in other organizations' rankings.
"I don't know, nor have I ever believed, that the Public Citizen ranking is a proper assessment of a state medical board," he said.