VA Pathologist Works While Intoxicated, 30,000 Files Reviewed for Errors
Dr. Robert Morris Levy was a pathologist at a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital in Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He was found to be drunk while at work in March 2016, and his intoxication was reported by an employee. However, after completing an inpatient program, Levy returned to work under the supervision of the Mississippi Physician Health Program in conjunction with the Arkansas Medical Foundation. In October 2017 he was again found to be impaired while on the clock. Levy admits to being drunk in 2016 but said he had a complex migraine and was not impaired the following year. Patient files are now being reviewed for errors.
Levy was terminated after being arrested for a DUI, a case which was ultimately dismissed. The former pathologist said he was arrested during work hours on March 1. According to a police report, Levy’s “speech was very slurred, and his balance was swayed” and he failed a field sobriety test. But Jacob DeYoung, a deputy city prosecutor for Fayetteville, said the case was dismissed after Levy’s blood sample came back clean.
Levy continued to work as the hospital investigated. He said he saw a neurologist, who cleared him. Records also show Levy later visited a neuropsychologist who found “no major concerns.”
Kelvin Parks, the interim medical center director for the hospital, wrote to the Mississippi board on June 7 that Levy “significantly failed to meet generally accepted standards of clinical practice that constituted an imminent threat to patient welfare.” Two days later, the Arkansas physician program revoked its advocacy of Levy due to “non-compliance with daily check-in requirements and failure to return phone calls to the AMF.”
Now, hospital officials are in the process of reviewing more than 30,000 cases dating as far back as 2005 in which Levy was treating patients and could have potentially caused significant errors resulting in serious injuries or death. So far, spokesperson Wanda Shull has indicated they’ve found eleven such errors which constitute “institutional disclosers.” Shull said the veterans and their families have been notified. Previously, investigators had discovered one potential death among Dr. Robert Morris Levy’s cases. Now, two others have now been connected to his care, and all three families have been notified.
Officials have also discovered 1,119 total errors thus far, although not all resulted in a change in care. All the while, Levy has denied working while impaired at the hospital in Fayetteville. Both internal and external pathologists are conducting the review, beginning with higher-priority and more complex cases, and the VA Office of Inspector General and the hospital are investigating whether the hospital acted properly after Levy was initially found to be impaired in 2016.
Levy was licensed to work in California, Florida, and Mississippi. VA doctors do not need to be licensed in the state in which they practice. In July, the hospital sent letters to veterans whose cases were being reviewed. Those whose cases have now been completed are being contacted regardless of whether errors were found or not. The VA Office intends to discuss the results with all families impacted.