Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Doctor billed taxpayers $285K for fake visits

Blames drugs; police given case

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Dr. Stephen John Coyle prescribed injectable narcotics to a patient, but took the drugs himself and then billed a private insurer -- without the patient's knowledge.

It's just one of 14 charges of professional misconduct that Coyle, a veteran physician who was once chief medical officer at the Misericordia Health Centre, pleaded guilty to during a hearing in April by an inquiry panel of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba.

Now, Coyle -- who is still being allowed to practise -- is being investigated by the Winnipeg Police Service.

In a decision released by the college, Coyle has been reprimanded and ordered to pay $40,000 to cover the cost of the college's investigation and inquiry.

Coyle is allowed to practise under strict guidelines set up by the college, including random drug testing. He is currently practising at the Crestview Clinic.

"I am very grateful to be happy, healthy and recovered," Coyle said during a brief interview Wednesday. "I appreciate the support of my patients, family, friends and colleagues and caregivers... that's the way it is and I'm doing my best."

Both Dr. Bill Pope, the college's registrar, and a spokeswoman for Manitoba Health said Coyle's matter has been referred to Winnipeg police for possible criminal charges.

Coyle has admitted to making inappropriate billings to Manitoba Health for more than $285,000. The work was done by a nurse practitioner and a clinical assistant -- his daughter -- and billed as if he had seen the patients.

But Pope says patients who see Coyle have nothing to worry about. He noted Coyle has already been practising under the guidelines for a year and there have been no complaints.

"It's highly likely there will always be sanctions and conditions over him for the rest of his career," Pope said.

"He was disciplined for something serious... the public is protected because of the review of his practice.

"The ability to rehabilitate and get a doctor back in practice is great. We need all the doctors we can get... we sincerely hope this is all behind him."

A provincial spokeswoman verified Coyle has already reimbursed Manitoba Health $2,393.75 for "fictitious visits."

The college says Coyle falsely billed Manitoba Health more than $285,000 with the help of others at the Four Rivers Broadway Clinic and the provincial spokeswoman said "Manitoba Health intends to pursue recovery of these billings in full from the physician."

Deb Elias, director of practice and standards at the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba, said she can't say whether the college is investigating allegations a nurse practitioner helped Coyle bill for work he did at the doctor's rate.

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority spokeswoman Heidi Graham said while Coyle worked at one point for Misericordia, "the judgment notes these activities occurred after he left."

Coyle received his medical training at the Newcastle Upon Tyne University Medical School in the United Kingdom, where he graduated in 1975, and finished his medical education in 1978 before immigrating to Manitoba.

Coyle was a family physician in Shoal Lake from 1978 to 1981, then until April 2004 he was a doctor at the Charleswood Medical Clinic.

He was chief medical officer at the Misericordia Health Centre from July 2004 until February 2008 before leaving to be a research director at a B.C. company.

Coyle returned to Manitoba in July 2008 to become medical director at the Four Rivers Broadway Clinic, where he worked until September 2010, when the college launched its investigation.

Except for one day when he tried unsuccessfully to practise again, Coyle did not practise between September 2010 and March 2012, when he began practising at the Crestview Clinic under strict controls set up by the college's investigation committee.

The college's 48-page decision says Coyle admitted -- and the college's investigation confirmed -- the doctor's misconduct occurred from late 2007 to September 2010.

Coyle admits he also wrongly prescribed more than 100 prescriptions of narcotics and drugs -- mostly injectable Demerol -- so he could use part of the drug on his patients and keep some of the medication for himself. The college says none of these patients needed injectable Demerol and the judgment says Coyle admitted "there is no excuse for his actions other than his own addiction and depression."

Patients never complained about Coyle. The investigation was sparked by information from Coyle's colleagues and the owner at the Four Rivers Broadway Clinic. Owner Daren Jorgensen could not be reached for comment.

Coyle admitted that for years he has been prescribed injectable Demerol for his hemiplegic migraines and Diazepam for restless leg syndrome, but it wasn't until he suffered depression in 2007 that he became addicted to the drugs.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 15, 2013 A4

History

Updated on Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 11:08 AM CDT: corrects typo

11:19 AM: corrects that Coyle was a family physician in Shoal Lake from 1978 to 1981

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