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Richmond County investigator seeks patients of University Health Care System doctor indicted on drug charges

Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012 5:02 PM
Last updated Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012 11:05 AM
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Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the month a letter was sent  to the doctor's patients.

John G. Rumbaugh worked at University Prompt Care.
John G. Rumbaugh worked at University Prompt Care.


Richmond County authorities are looking into the past of a physician charged with prescription fraud to determine how far the pattern of abuse extended and whether patients were involved.

Sheriff’s Investigator Erik Williams said he was seeking past patients of Dr. John G. Rumbaugh, a family practice physician employed with University Health Care System, who was indicted July 10 on 37 felony counts of prescription drug fraud.

The indictments – in Richmond and Columbia counties – allege that Rumbaugh wrote prescriptions for a fictitious patient to illegally obtain the pain­killers hydrocodone and oxyco­done over a 13-month period starting in April 2011.

Williams said he has had numerous calls from Rumbaugh’s past patients alleging other prescription abuses and has been working to investigate those claims. He said the investigation has run into some obstacles because Rumbaugh’s co-workers at University Prompt Care in Evans have been unwilling to discuss the case.

“I can’t really get past the front door over there,” he said. “I don’t understand why nobody will talk.”

Williams said he began to build a case against Rumbaugh in early June after a pharmacist called him about a suspicious pattern of prescriptions being filled at the Rite Aid pharmacy at Walton Way and 15th Street.

Williams said Rumbaugh was writing prescriptions to a fictitious patient named “Joachim Koener” and then picking them up himself.

“He paid in cash and said he was delivering it to the patient himself,” Williams said.

The investigation led to more prescriptions that were filled at a Rite Aid on Furys Ferry Road, about a mile from Rumbaugh’s home in West Lake neighborhood. Williams estimates that during that period Rumbaugh received more than 1,000 pills for his personal use, while he was still seeing patients on a daily basis.

“He was getting about 60 pills at a pop,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the pharmacist he would still be doing what he was doing.”

Williams said that not long after that he attempted to interview Rumbaugh while he was on duty at University Hospital.

“I wasn’t really able to talk to him,” Williams said. “He was incoherent.”

Williams said he didn’t get a chance at any more interviews with Rumbaugh. Hospital officials informed him that the doctor had entered a rehab program and would not disclose his location, he said.

“They got real evasive about it and were reluctant about saying exactly where he was,” he said.

University Hospital spokes­woman Rebecca Sylvester said Rumbaugh took an extended leave of absence in mid-June. In March, the hospital also sent a letter to his patients informing them that he would no longer be their physician.

“He has no privileges to treat any patients and has no access to patient information,” she said.

A grand jury arrest warrant was issued July 10 along with the indictments, but Williams said he had no idea where Rumbaugh was until he was arrested Aug. 1 in Cook County, Ga.

According to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Rumbaugh was stopped for speeding on Interstate 75 South about 41 miles from the Florida line. Police discovered he was wanted in Richmond and Columbia counties.

Rumbaugh was picked up the next day by sheriff’s officers and taken to the Richmond County jail. He was released Aug. 23 on $5,000 bond on the condition that he return to the Talbott Recovery Campus, an Atlanta addiction treatment center.

Messages left Wednesday with Rumbaugh’s attorney, William Sussman, were not returned.

Williams is hoping other witnesses will come forward so he can continue his investigation. In the meantime, he also is waiting to hear from the Georgia Composite Medical Board, the state agency that licenses physicians.

“I’ve tried and I’ve made numerous calls, and no one there has returned my call yet,” he said.

Comments (55) Add comment
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Riverman1
93494
Points
Riverman1 09/05/12 - 04:44 pm
4
2
These type cases are trouble

These type cases are trouble because of HIPPA violations if you reveal information about patients. That's why the staff is reluctant to talk to the investigator.

Riverman1
93494
Points
Riverman1 09/05/12 - 05:10 pm
5
2
Anyone who suggests the staff

Anyone who suggests the staff at University's Clinic should discuss patients with ANYONE is not very bright. There are big penalties for revealing patient information. The investigator should contact University's legal team.

In defense of the employees at the clinic, understand health care providers of all types undergo yearly training during their birth month explaining firmly that no information is to be revealed and the harsh penalties if that is not followed. Without a court order, I can't see anyone discussing any patient. Of course a patient can willingly discuss his own treatment.

Karen Slater-McDaniel
3102
Points
Karen Slater-McDaniel 09/05/12 - 05:13 pm
3
3
I'm kind of shocked the

I'm kind of shocked the pharmacist called LE on this. It it much different than a typical "forged" Rx because the MD signed it. Usually (unless forged) the pharmacist can only "hint" to the MD that a patient is abusing narcotics via numerous providers. But RM a lot of people confuse federal law (HIPPA) which overrides state law.

Riverman1
93494
Points
Riverman1 09/05/12 - 05:18 pm
3
2
Well, I heard someone in the

Well, I heard someone in the media giving totally false information saying the staff should talk to the investigator. That could result in huge fines for them. The way to do this is with court orders and contact University's lawyers. You can't throw threats at people involved in patient care in any form. Clerical or actual medical care.

Karen Slater-McDaniel
3102
Points
Karen Slater-McDaniel 09/05/12 - 05:25 pm
3
4
True that! True that! I got

True that! True that! I got cussed out yesterday by a sibling of a IP because she was mad that DH told her she was not on the consent. She called our office (the surgeon) and wanted to argue with me that she is listed as his emergency contact ... to which I explained "NOT THE SAME THING" as him listing her on the consent. She was not a happy camper at all. Passed it off to the doctor to make that judgment call :)

Sweet son
11585
Points
Sweet son 09/05/12 - 05:49 pm
3
0
Clues!

Numerous prescriptions for narcotics and the doc picking them up himself!

r
409
Points
r 09/05/12 - 05:58 pm
3
0
Picking them up is the clue

More and more people are getting caught now due to most business having you electronically sign for them when you pick them up. The name shows up no matter who's name the prescription is in.

OhWell
326
Points
OhWell 09/05/12 - 06:12 pm
5
0
I applaud the pharmacy for

I applaud the pharmacy for reporting this but I am like R you have to sign for prescriptions picked up and I ain't seen a Doctor in a while making housecalls and certainly not picking up a patients scripts. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out this picture was very shady!

Kingbiscuitboy
473
Points
Kingbiscuitboy 09/05/12 - 08:24 pm
2
3
I was a patient

Nice guy, sad situation. He never gave me any indication that he would ever do this. Trying to dig deeper and turn things around for the sake of colorful articles is wrong. Writer is an idiot for even trying to get Dr.s to violate patient Dr. confidentiality. Hope Dr. R gets help. Leave him alone!

dwb619
104068
Points
dwb619 09/05/12 - 08:39 pm
5
0
crafty

This doctor either was not as crafty as Carlucci or the times have really changed.
Remember when Dr. c "mooned" one of the local TV crews!

JRC2024
10398
Points
JRC2024 09/05/12 - 10:30 pm
4
0
Sad for the Doctor and his

Sad for the Doctor and his family. Addiction is a powerful thing. I hope he gets clean and continues to do good. I know of one radiologist who was supposed to have had the same problem.

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 09/06/12 - 04:41 am
3
0
Carlucci

I think there is a difference. Wasn't Carlucci writing prescriptions for people that came to his office for the money? Sounds like this doctor was writing himself a prescription for pills. They can't do that.

dwb619
104068
Points
dwb619 09/06/12 - 04:58 am
1
0
tullie

You are right.

Austin Rhodes
2989
Points
Austin Rhodes 09/06/12 - 07:00 am
3
5
Bollocks on hiding behind HIPPA!

The INSTANT University learned they had a problem with this Dr. they should have appointed a supervising physician to review all material (in cooperation with the investigation) and sent out a note to all his patients informing them that if they had concerns their names were used ILLEGALLY, they could come forward and meet with the proper personnel.

That is 100% legal, and actually, pretty smart given the circumstances. Instead, they stonewall the cops and offer no specific explanation or gameplan?

This is no different than if they found a medical professional was molesting patients while under anesthesia...the entire caseload of the person in question would need to be reviewed by a supervising physician and then evaluated, under court seal if needed, by the proper authorities.

I understand that no one should throw open the file cabinet the instant a badge is flashed, but in a case like this, where patient's names and files were likely used, the supervising entity (University, in this case) has to be proactive, NOT an obstruction that merely stonewalls legal investigations.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 09/06/12 - 07:45 am
4
1
Thank you Pharmacist

I completely agree with Austin. University took the position of circling the wagons.

I'm disappointed that it took an outside pharmacist to bring this out. More than the fact about the dr's illegal behaviour, what about his treatment of patients while he was drugged up? You can't tell me his coworkers didn't notice his condition and behaviour. You would also think at least one patient would have noticed something was off with him as well.

I wish the doctor well and hope his consequences motivate a true recovery.

pwren46
208
Points
pwren46 09/06/12 - 07:48 am
3
1
I am amazed that in all this

I am amazed that in all this discusssion and defense of the Dr. and medical staff that no-one has mentioned that this physician was actively treating patients while under the influence of narcotics!! I hope no patient's health was jeopardized. He should lose his medical license!

WalterBradfordCannon
1492
Points
WalterBradfordCannon 09/06/12 - 07:51 am
9
1
Dr Rumbaugh

U.S. Army battalion surgeon Maj. John Rumbaugh was awarded a bronze star and a purple heart for his service in Iraq. Like many who served in infantry, he is not the man he was before he went to Iraq. But he is still a good man, and an honorable veteran, who deserves better than this article.

MarinerMan
2107
Points
MarinerMan 09/06/12 - 07:55 am
7
0
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996
Unpublished

HIPAA, not HIPPA. If the investigator was getting "numerous" calls from patients, then he could interview the stew out of them, and they could have shared all of their ills. However, to expect someone working @ Prompt Care to freely discuss Physicians or patients is just stupid, in this day and time. That is why all hospitals have a Legal Department. What the investigator should have done, was to contact the Medical Director of UH. And Austin, it was a fictitious patient.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 09/06/12 - 07:56 am
3
2
Anyone who received care

Anyone who received care where this doctor was employed should be notified by University if their name was used to obtain these drugs. A person's prescription history affects their ability to change health providers in the private pay sector.

Kingbiscuitboy
473
Points
Kingbiscuitboy 09/06/12 - 08:06 am
4
1
Dr. under influence?

pwren, Where is the proof "physician was actively treating patients while under the influence of narcotics" or is this pure speculation from the writer of the article? He doesn't cite sources.
Like I said before, he never gave me any indication...so, there! Now you can quote me.
Good person, sad situation. Medical industry has programs to rehabilitate these docs. There is a great deal of worth still left in this man.

Austin Rhodes
2989
Points
Austin Rhodes 09/06/12 - 08:11 am
2
5
AGAIN...University should have been PROACTIVE...not REACTIVE

No one said throw open the record book, go back and read...and to Riverman...clean out your ears. I said very clearly yesterday that when University discovered this going on they should have put MEDICAL personnel on it (100% legal) to ferret out the depth of the problems.

Instead, they "circle the wagons" as Willow pointed out. Why ???

You should never have to wait to be "ordered" to do the right thing in a case like this, these are medical professionals, they need to worry about their patients and not their own backsides. There is NO violation of the law when they are working to protect patients, and for that matter, their own professional licenses and standing.

Illegal activity took place under their shingle, and hiding from the cops looks bad, sounds bad, and is highly unprofessional.

This could have easily been done with NO violations of HIPAA (pardon the error above) and sadly, there are REAL people involved in Rumbaugh's activities as the article above clearly states.

pwren46
208
Points
pwren46 09/06/12 - 08:52 am
2
1
1000 pills in a year....when

1000 pills in a year....when was he not medicated??

Riverman1
93494
Points
Riverman1 09/06/12 - 08:55 am
7
1
Clinic People Did the Right Thing

Austin said, "No one said throw open the record book, go back and read...and to Riverman...clean out your ears. I said very clearly yesterday that when University discovered this going on they should have put MEDICAL personnel on it (100% legal) to ferret out the depth of the problems."

Austin, clean our your dendrites and axons. You were saying the people working there should have cooperated fully with the investigator. LATER you said they should have contacted their legal department, but you absolutely slammed the people for not telling what they knew even though you did backtrack slightly after my first comment was posted here at 5:44 PM yesterday. You also had a caller who corrected you, too, after my post just before you went off the air.

The article is about the investigator saying those at the clinic would not cooperate. They were absolutely doing the right thing by not saying anything. I'm not even sure what the lawyers will advise. Patient confidentiality is of utmost importance. As long as everyone knows that...fine.

MarinerMan
2107
Points
MarinerMan 09/06/12 - 08:58 am
3
0
Medical Director
Unpublished

Every hospital, clinic, or group practice, has a Medical Director. They are the point person. Physicians report to their respective Medical Directors. @ UH, that would be Dr. Farr.

Riverman1
93494
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Riverman1 09/06/12 - 09:08 am
3
1
Two different issues going on

Two different issues going on here. If you notice an impaired provider you have a duty to report the person.

Austin Rhodes
2989
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Austin Rhodes 09/06/12 - 09:22 am
0
4
Cooperation should be PROACTIVE in these cases...

...and RM...don't flatter yourself. There are certain things that I assume most talk radio listeners understand. If I say "kill an intruder" that doesn't mean kill your neighbor who nudges your already cracked door open while singing out...,"Helloooo your door is open...."

If you mistakenly have illegal child porn delivered to your house, that was supposed to go to your next door neighbor, I would NEVER suggest you go raid their mailbox...BUT...you have a duty (and in the case of University in this situation, an ethical and professional responsibility) to AGGRESSIVELY report such activity to the proper authorities.
Anything less is indefensible.

University's in house policy in this situation is also indefensible.

Riverman1
93494
Points
Riverman1 09/06/12 - 09:29 am
6
1
Describe what you think

Describe what you think University's policy is? It appears they don't release medical information to anyone without a court order and that's 100% appropriate unless the patient agrees or it involves child abuse.

There was a case in Maryland a few years ago where the court ordered some records of patients be reviewed and sent to the Justice Dept. The clinic sent about 50 records that they THOUGHT may be involved although these records were not specifically requested. They were fined $4.3 million for trying to be helpful.

Riverman1
93494
Points
Riverman1 09/06/12 - 09:33 am
7
1
Austin said, "and RM...don't

Austin said, "and RM...don't flatter yourself."

Look you are taking this entirely too personal. It is simply a situation that I and many others know about. The employees were right not to say anything. If the investigator didn't know that, it's his fault.

Also, you don't know that the employees didn't contact University lawyers and were told not to say anything. I actually suspect that's what happened.

dichotomy
37418
Points
dichotomy 09/06/12 - 09:40 am
3
0
I can see where the hospital

I can see where the hospital and staff would want to strictly adhere to HIPAA. It sure makes good cover for keeping information from people who might want to sue when they found out they were being treated by a doctor who was whacked out on (insert prefix here)codone. Especially if the investigation uncovered that the staff and co-workers knew the doc was impaired.

"Williams said that not long after that he attempted to interview Rumbaugh while he was on duty at University Hospital."

“I wasn’t really able to talk to him,” Williams said. “He was incoherent.”

Really.....maybe HIPPA prevented the staff and co-workers from talking to an investigator. But if it was this obvious it does look like somebody at University would have run this up the flagpole so the "superiors" could take some kind of internal action besides a cover-up.

I notice University's letter that it sent to patients did not say "Hey, you've bee seeing a whacked out drug addict for the last year so you might want to come down and get a mulligan on your diagnosis."

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