Johnson City Clinic’s closed doors spark concerns over medical records

Gary B. Gray • Jul 13, 2013 at 4:07 PM

Medical records, referrals and information on how Johnson City’s Castle Clinic plans to help patients with important requests appear to be, at least for now, out of reach for those once under the care of a doctor whose license has been suspended, who faces a slough of criminal charges and remains in a psychiatric hospital.

Mary Lambert said she pulled into the clinic’s entrance Friday morning to check a posted notice to make sure she had the correct information to retrieve her medical records.

“When I arrived, there was another lady who was there saying she’d called and called but had not been able to reach anyone,” she said. “Someone needs to take charge of this. Your medical records are important enough that this has people standing at the gates trying to find out what’s going on.”

The Johnson City Press confirmed Thursday that the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners has suspended Dr. Robert Allen’s license to practice medicine. The clinic is located at 1416 S. Roan St.

Issued on June 22, the order to suspend his license was delivered to Allen at Woodridge Psychiatric Hospital and will remain in effect until the conclusion of the case against him or until otherwise ordered by the board.

On Thursday, a sign was hung on the outside of the clinic’s gates informing people that it was closed. It also noted that “Patients needing medical records please call (423) 979-6257” -- the clinic’s main number.

“If a physician does not take care of medical records while on suspension, the Department of Health may open a complaint seeking revocation of the doctor’s license for failure to secure those medical records,” Bill Christian, Tennessee Department of Health communications and media relations associate director, said late Friday. “But neither the department nor the Board of Medical Examiners take custody of the medical records.”

Meleta Stallard, Lambert’s daughter, called the Press Friday morning saying she desperately needed the records for various reasons but no one at the clinic is picking up the phone, or there is no one there to physically do so.

“I need to get my records, because I’m switching insurance companies,” she said. “I understand Dr. Allen has had some issues. But it was bewildering to me, because I contacted them a few days ago to get a referral, and they did not give me any indication they would be closing.”

When the number is called, a message gives the office hours and tells callers to dial 911 if they need immediate assistance or to call the answering service. The message does not include an option to actually leave a message. Instead, callers are told the machine is full. It then repeats the message.

The answering service number, 1-800-335-8940, was busy throughout the day Friday. A CenturyLink operator confirmed the number is in the 423 area code but another employee in its customer service department said that the number could not be checked to see if it was off the line because it likely is with another provider.

Castle Clinic had remained open after Allen, 63, was accused last month of leading Johnson City police on a high speed chase. He was reportedly wearing nothing but a bathrobe and underwear and had a loaded gun and a machete in his truck, according to a police report.

The chase ended when Allen drove through his own yard and ran into his house. He emerged about 15 minutes later marching in front of his garage with an American flag and honking a bicycle horn. Along with the gun and the machete, police found 29 grams of marijuana in the center console of Allen’s truck.

The order for summary suspension explains that Allen “engaged in unprofessional and unethical conduct and is unsafe to practice medicine.”

He initially was housed in Washington County Detention Center and placed under suicide watch, but was released on his own recognizance on bond and admitted to the psychiatric hospital on or around June 12, according to the order.

Allen is scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing in Washington County Session Court on Aug. 19.

According to the Board of Medical Examiners’ Rules: Upon notification that a physician in a practice has abandoned his practice and not made provision for the security, or transfer, or otherwise established a secure method of patient access to their records, patients should take all reasonable steps to obtain their medical records by whatever lawful means available and should immediately seek the services of another physician (Rule 0880-02-15).

To file an official complaint with the Tennessee Department of Health, go to tn.gov. This is the state’s home page. Look for the “services” link on the tool bar running across the top of the page. Click that. You will see a box that reads “Licenses and Permits.” Click that. Then click “Health Related Boards.”

On the left side of this page, you will see “Filing a Complaint. Click this link. About halfway down the text, you will see a link “Click here to download a complaint form.” Click this and an online form will appear.

You can also call the health department’s Medical Records Closed Licensed Facilities, (615) 741-4411, or its Health Care Facilities Complaint Hot Line, (877) 287-0010. You also can contact Consumer Affairs at 1-800-342-8385.

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