published Friday, November 30th, 2012

Health board opens file on Scott DesJarlais


by Chris Carroll
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais
Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Tennessee Department of Health has acknowledged opening a "complaint file" against Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais.

But the file wasn't mentioned this week as the state Board of Medical Examiners met for the first time since controversy hit the physician-turned-4th-District-congressman in October.

A board member said that isn't unusual.

"It takes a long time, sometimes a year or two, for a complaint to get to us," said Nina Yeiser, a citizen member and 12-year veteran of the Board of Medical Examiners. "[Complaints] have to be investigated internally, and I think that's probably going on now."

When a complaint is received, the Department of Health investigates it and relays the results to the Board of Medical Examiners for a decision.

On Oct. 16, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint amid news reports DesJarlais had slept with female patients and pressured one to get an abortion. The reports later were validated by DesJarlais' own court testimony.

He subsequently admitted to having intimate affairs with at least two patients.

"It was in poor taste, and it was a poor decision on my part," he told the Knoxville News Sentinel.

On Nov. 1, state health officials sent CREW a letter that said "a complaint file has been opened" on DesJarlais.

"You will receive written correspondence from this Office when a final decision has been made about the complaint file," says the letter. "All complaints are given serious consideration and are processed as quickly as possible."

At least five Tennessee physicians have been disciplined for having consensual sexual relationships with patients since mid-2005, state records show. DesJarlais' medical license is active through 2014.

CREW also filed a complaint against DesJarlais with the Office of Congressional Ethics for misleading the public during the campaign. On Tuesday the office acknowledged receipt of the complaint.

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