CONCORD, N.H. — A New Hampshire judge has denied an 84-year-old doctor’s request to regain her license to practice, which she had surrendered partly over her inability to use a computer.
The state challenged Dr. Anna Konopka’s record keeping, prescribing practices and medical decision making. It said her limited computer skills prevent her from using the state’s mandatory electronic drug monitoring program, which requires prescribers of opioids to register in an effort reduce overdoses.
Konopka surrendered her license in October, but later requested permission to continue her practice. New Hampshire Public Radio reported Monday that Merrimack Superior Court Judge John Kissinger ruled Nov. 15 that she failed to show she was forced to give up her license as she alleged.
Konopka has asked the judge to reconsider his decision on Wednesday. He hasn’t responded yet, so she still cannot see the 20 to 25 patients per week as she once did.
“I’m not upset about anything. The legal system is a game. You move. They move. It’s full of tricks and different movements,” she said.
“I am fighting. Therefore as long as I am fighting, I have some hope,” she added.
Konopka does not keep a computer in her office. Most of her patient records are in the filing cabinets in her consultation room, which adjoins her examining room. She keeps a landline telephone on her desk, and a fax machine near her examining table.
According to the state, the allegations against Konopka started with a complaint about her treatment of a 7-year-old patient with asthma. She’s been accused of leaving dosing levels of one medication up to the parents and failing to treat the patient with daily inhaled steroids. Konopka, who agreed to a board reprimand in May, said she never harmed the patient and the boy’s mother disregarded her instructions.
Four more complaints have since been filed against Konopka. The board in September voted to move forward with a disciplinary hearing on those complaints. But before the hearing was held, Konopka agreed in to give up her license — something she said she was forced to do.
Konopka has built a loyal following in New London, population 4,400, and surrounding towns because she brings a personal touch that is attractive to patients weary of battling big hospitals and inattentive doctors. She often attracts patients who have run out of options, many with complicated conditions, such as chronic pain. She also draws patients who have no insurance and little means to pay. She takes anyone willing to pay her $50 in cash — making it difficult for her to afford a nurse, secretary, or a lawyer to handle her case, she said.
Thirty of Konopka’s patients have written Kissinger hoping to convince him to reconsider his ruling.
— Michael Casey
Reporting like this, often on weightier matters, is what keeps the public so distrustful of news outlets. Tapping into the public’s understandable frustration with our healthcare system, the title begs sympathy for Dr Konopka.
I cannot find the decree online but any reporter worth her salt would have reviewed it. And STAT’s just jumping on the bandwagon. A quick web search reveals numerous articles that mention computer skills in the headline, but begin the article by noting concerns about decision making, prescribing practices and record keeping. The original settlement with the NH Board and the VOLUNTARY relinquishment of her license are available online. Concerns about management of a 7 year old asthma patient are mentioned and she agreed that to regain her license, she could re-apply as a new applicant. Maybe she forgot what she agreed to or maybe a huge outpouring of sympathy encouraged by selective reporting encouraged her.
I suspect she’s not competent but the ridiculous press on this matter has not provided enough information to know with certainty.
The original motion to reconsider and the judge’s ruling can be found here:
Thanks. Interesting and informative reading. The Judge’s order is well reasoned, acknowledging the devotion of Konopska to her patients and vice versa, while also acknowledging that the NH Board of Medicine is legally charged with protecting the public which includes ensuring competence in practitioners. I can tell you that patients bring a lot of unconscious expectations when they see a doctor and become acutely aware when those expectations are not met. But the affidavits of her patients have a common thread and doctors might learn a good deal reading them. While there are doctors who are unable to take time or unwilling to do more than the perfunctory, plenty would be glad to meet the expectations of many of Dr Konpka’s patients, but are encumbered by countless things (including business considerations) from devoting actual face time to patients. Sadly yet appropriately, laypersons really cannot attest to competence.
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