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NORTH KINGSTOWN—For many local residents, Dr. James Gloor has been a crucial resource in their fight against Lyme Disease. Now, the North Kingstown practitioner of 32 years is the subject of a Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) investigation, one which he claims is unfair and guided by special interest.
Since 2012, Gloor, who operates Wickford Junction Medical Walk-In on Ten Rod Road, has been investigated by the RIDOH’s Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline, which originally claimed that he had been misdiagnosing and mistreating patients for Lyme disease after receiving complaints from six of his patients. Gloor claims that the board and its members are targeting him in a ‘witch-hunt,’ and that the RIDOH and Rhode Island Hospital are ignoring patients who have appealed to them for treatment of chronic Lyme disease. For more of this story pick up a copy of today's Standard-Times.
“[One of] my patients at Rhode Island Hospital, she has been brow beaten there, saying to her, ‘you don’t have Lyme’,” said Gloor. “It was verified by [Lyme disease specialist] Leslie Fein in N.J., and she sends it back up and says, ‘you guys missed it at Rhode Island Hospital’.”
“Then they say she does not, it is a psych case,” he continued. “There is a big, black hole at Rhode Island Hospital and Lifespan, and we need to shine the light on [the hospital’s] desired incompetence, a chosen path of ignoring an epidemic. We are in the middle of an epidemic and we have our major hospital denying anything is going on.”
The crux of the issue lies in the nationwide debate regarding chronic Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness, and whether physicians should treat patients beyond the 30-day antibiotic period stipulated by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). Many practitioners feel that Lyme disease does not persist beyond a few months, while a smaller but growing number of medical professionals, and the general public, insist that chronic Lyme disease is an apparent and increasing problem.
“This is a burning issue, [and] we guesstimate that 10 to 20 percent of Lyme patients take their doxycycline and have residual issues,” said Gloor of the IDSA guideline treatment. ‘The research has not been done, [and] these people lead an existence equivalent to a person with significant heart failure in terms of lack of energy, ability to remember and cognate, and the other spectrum of joint pain and neurological issues can be profound.”
“These are young people,” he continued. “Some of my toughest cases are young women. They are bed-bound not infrequently. Most of them we get back 75 percent, but we have to answer the question: what is this epidemic? That has to be answered. We need that research to be done.”
Rhode Island State Law currently permits practitioners’ to treat Lyme with long-term antibiotics programs, stating that ‘no physician is subject to disciplinary action by the board solely for prescribing, administering, or dispensing long-term antibiotic therapy for a therapeutic purpose for a patient clinically diagnosed with Lyme Disease, if this diagnosis and treatment plan has been documented in the physician’s medical record for that patient.’
Although the board has since backed down on its claim of unprofessional conduct, it is now asking Gloor to sign a consent order for monitoring his records, which the RIDOH claims have been insufficient. In November 2013 and January this year, Gloor went before the Board of Licensure to address their claims, but stated that he was dismissed unfairly after a 30-minute meeting.
“A half hour to present all the data, and essentially at the end of that time, it was agreed that we had a major issue with our charting, which I did not agree,” said Gloor. “That meeting was a farce, [and] we were amazed. We gave them 50 letters of support from my patients, and they handed them back to my lawyer and said we don’t want to look at those things.”
“I think it was a rigged deal right from the start,” he added. “I know it was, yet we were blindsided. We didn’t know what was going on.”
The board did admit in its order that the department has not received a complaint against Gloor in his 32 years as a general practitioner in North Kingstown. Gloor has refused to sign the consent order, and has established a fund to pay for legal fees in order to fight against the RIDOH’s claims.
Tracey McCue is one of Gloor’s current patients who has suffered debilitating effects in association with Lyme. After her daughter was treated by Gloor for Lyme successfully, she decided to seek the North Kingstown doctor’s expertise.
“I didn’t know I had Lyme, and I was under the impression that it was muscle fatigue,” said McCue. “It had gone on for quite some time. I had my regular physician do a Lyme test, which came back negative, but I had gotten to the point that I couldn’t walk, stand, kneel, or work. Dr. Gloor had started me on long term antibiotic treatment and within a month I started really seeing the effects on the positive end.”
“I really started to do well, and Dr. Gloor said it was a year to two-year treatment, and I signed up for that,” she added. “It is night and day.”
Concerned regarding the RIDOH’s actions, McCue has established a petition in support of Gloor, which as of Wednesday had 888 signatures.
“Dr.Gloor was the "only" MD out of 32 documented MD's in [Rhode Island and Massachusetts] who tested me for the ‘other ‘ four tick borne diseases, which includes Lyme,” wrote one petitioner. “Most MDs only test for one or two. I had Lyme and Babeosis, which he treated, [but] was critically ill until he discovered the second ‘tick borne’ disease.”
“Recovery has been long due to the negligence of the other 32 docs who refused to acknowledge, test, treat, and follow up on all long term "Lyme" related symptoms and illnesses,” she continued. “This MD should be applauded, not harassed, questioned, or threatened.”
North Kingstown School Committee member Lynda Avanzato, who has suffered from Lyme in the past, is firmly on the side of Gloor in treating patients long-term, and says that medical professionals are ignoring increasingly researched science which points to chronic Lyme disease as a real issue.
“A lot of these infectious disease doctors and general practitioners are telling patients, ‘there is something wrong with you’,” said Avanzato. “People are smarter than they ever have been before on these issues, and they are not being respected or listened to by their practitioners.”
Avanzato said that she has called on state officials to address the DOH’s treatment of Gloor, and also to create a more receptive environment from the state for medical professionals who wish to treat chronic Lyme without fear of unfair scrutiny. The school committee member is also looking to take action against the RIDOH in federal court if they continue to pursue action against Gloor.
“Other states have done this when they have gotten retaliation from [boards of medical licensure],” said Avanzato. “They run the show, [and RIDOH] itself is the one that initiated these complaints. We are not comfortable before this board and, in light of fairness, we need to go to federal court.”
“The board should not have immunity, trying to find anything they can once they can’t do the Lyme part [against Gloor],” she continued. “This is a disgraceful episode and, unless the complaints are withdrawn, which would be the best outcome for the state, it should just stop now.”