SANTA ROSA, CA: In 2008, two of Dr. Gurney's employees reported that he was ordering large quantities of multiple controlled substances, on a regular basis, that were not used for patient care. They also reported that Dr. Gurney was practicing "all the time" while under the influence. The Medical Board reported that one of his employees said that Dr. Gurney was prone to "making mistakes in his care and treatment of patients."
Dr. Gurney's behavior became increasingly erratic and unfocused, and his drug deliveries were increased every three weeks for about 800-900 pills at a time. An employee also reported that Dr. Gurney was regularly ordering 10-20 syringes of a powerful sedative, even though they did not use such medicine in their practice.
When Medical Board investigators finally visited Dr. Gurney, they asked if he would submit to a drug test and he refused, demanding an attorney. Then, saying that "something had come up," Dr. Gurney left California for a month. An employee then told investigators that Dr. Gurney "seemed to be impaired almost every day and that he seemed to get worse in the last few months." She also reported that syringes, filled with Lidocaine, would disappear.
When Dr. Gurney returned to California, he refused to answer the Medical Board's questions, including why he kept all the drugs in a locked safe only he had access to, if he had ever used any controlled drugs in his office, and he refused to tell the Board what prescriptions he was taking or who had prescribed the drugs to him.
Dr. Gurney eventually admitted that he began self-prescribing pain medications in 2003 or 2004. He said that after about a year, he was taking two pills every 4 hours and injecting himself with Versed. By 2006, he was using daily, including 8mg per day of Xanax, 3-4 tablets of Ambien, 16 tablets of opioid analgesics, as well as a sedative. He admitted that the large amounts of controlled substances he had ordered were for personal use. Dr. Gurney also admitted that he felt impaired while practicing medicine.
Over a three year period, Dr. Gurney had used more than 30,000 pills, including Xanax, Vicodin, Ambien, Percocet, Fentanyl, and Morphine. In 2012, he finally surrendered his medical license.
Proposition 46, the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, will enact the first law in the nation to require random drug and alcohol tests of physicians in hospitals, modeled after the Federal Aviation Administration testing program that has successfully reduced substance abuse by pilots. Doctors found to be impaired on the job will have their license suspended. If Prop 46 had been in effect, Dr. Gurney's substance abuse may have been detected, possibly preventing threats to patient safety in the process.
Hall of Shame: Insurance Companies Backing No on 46
Cooperative of American Physicians $10,161,489.04
The Doctors Company $10,000,000.00
NorCal Mutual Insurance Company $10,000,000.00
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan $5,000,000.00
Medical Insurance Exchange of California $5,000,000.00
The Dentists Insurance Company $1,620,000.00
The Mutual Risk Retention Group $1,000,000.00
All Insurers: $42,781,489.04
Insurance companies have spent nearly $43 million dollars to oppose Prop 46 in order to shield dangerous doctors like Dr. Gurney from punishment, at the expense of patient safety, in order to protect their already substantial profits. In total, the opposition to Prop 46 has over $58 million dollars in their warchest, outspending consumer and patient safety advocates nearly 8:1.
Learn more about Proposition 46 and the campaign for patient safety at: www.yeson46.org
– 30 –
Paid for by Yes on Prop. 46, Your Neighbors for Patient Safety, a Coalition of Consumer Attorneys and Patient Safety Advocates – major funding by Consumer Attorneys of California Issues and Initiative Defense Political Action Committees and Kabateck, Brown, Kellner, LLP.