Reinhart cleared to resume practice by medical board
LITTLE ROCK—Unanimously, the members of the Arkansas State Medical Board voted to allow Dr. Jeffrey Reinhart to return to his Monticello medical practice last Thursday morning. The decision was made during the ASMB’s August meeting.
Reinhart, who had been suspended because of an incident at Drew Memorial Health System since November 2016, was present in the boardroom for the meeting. It was not immediately known when Reinhart Family Healthcare would reopen, only that the Board had given him the approval to return to practice.
That was very welcome news to those that traveled from Monticello in support of Reinhart—and for literally thousands in Southeast Arkansas. Among those in attendance in support of the Monticello physician was Scott Barrilleaux, DMHS’ Chief Executive Officer.
“I’m humbled and grateful that the Medical Board has allowed me to return to practice,” Reinhart said in a prepared statement a day after his appearance before the Board. “Throughout this difficult time for me and my family, I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of prayers and encouragement from so many. To all of you who have stood by me, I say, ‘Thank you.’
“My staff and I look forward to reopening my clinic in the very near future. I’m very excited about serving my community again.”
Rick Angel, Reinhart’s attorney, laid out the proposal for return to practice before the members of the Board—minus ASMB board member and Reinhart’s fellow Monticello physician, Dr. Sylvia Simon, who recused herself from any decision the Board would eventually make before the presentation began. Among its major stipulations were that Reinhart would:
• Cease from doing any obstetrics work;
• Not concern himself with any hospital visits for the time being;
• Turn the day-to-day operation of his practice over to a management company; and
• Enter into a lifetime physician’s monitoring contract with Dr. Bradley Diner of the Arkansas Medical Foundation for accountability.
Angel said this proposal had been discussed with Kevin O’Dwyer, the ASMB attorney, and was being offered to the Board with the hopes of getting Reinhart back in practice with as little stress as possible. “I want him to walk in (the office) and be able to practice,” Angel noted. “Period.”
Members of the ASMB who were present listened intently as Angel and Diner laid out the proposal. After providing the Board with a few historical facts as to why Reinhart was there in the first place, Angel delivered the proposition.
“Our offer to the Board, so the Board does not have to go through a hearing on this issue,” Angel began, “is (Reinhart) fully recognizes and knows that alcohol use and abuse was escalating during this period of time. He will admit to a violation of the Medical Practices Act. He’s now been sober for nine months, he’s done everything Dr. Diner has asked him to do, he’s done everything that Bradford Health Services (in Warrior, Ala., the treatment facility Reinhart entered in November 2016 pretty much immediately after his suspension) has asked him to do and everything that I’ve asked him to do.
“With the admission of the violation, there’s certain things—as this Board knows—that I want for him to be successful. One of the main things that I told Dr. Reinhart after listening (to him tell) about his practice and how successful his practice is that I don’t want him to have anything to do with the actual management of his practice.
“We’ve already sat down and interviewed, and he will be hiring an independent medical management company. It’s a company that I know well, managing over 60 to 70 practices—including hospitals here in Arkansas. Literally, his employees will be their employees instead of his employees. They will handle everything; all issues with his practice from hiring and firing to the day-to-day management of the clinic to lab to X-rays to everything. Billing and coding, they will do, too. So that takes it completely off his plate.
“The other part of the proposal is from the standpoint of monitoring. I have recommended and would suggest that he be under a lifetime contract until he no longer practices medicine. I think that’s in his best interest and the best interest of his patients. I would suggest, if Dr. Diner is agreeable to that, is instead of agreeing to a five-year-contract (which is currently in place), we’ll agree to have a contract until he no longer wants to use his license in Arkansas.
“The other part of Dr. Diner’s involvement will be hands-on approving of Dr. Reinhart’s actual return to the practice—actually talking to him about his clinic setting, about making sure this is not a sprint to get back in practice, to make sure he eases back into practice. Whatever we have to do to put him back in a position to succeed rather than not succeed, that’s the reason for all these dynamics.
“I’ve never had a physician in 25 years of doing this with this much support. You would not believe the number of people, colleagues, friends and patients, who have reached out to me. He has a tremendous amount of support. He’s very upset with himself. He’s embarrassed all this has happened. He hates it that the hospital has had to deal with this but he’s worked hard for nine months and he’s ready to return to practice. I think anybody will tell you, from the standpoint of his reputation as a physician, it’s impeccable.”
Diner corroborated that opinion.
“In Dr. Reinhart’s support, he has dotted every ‘i,’ crossed every ‘t’ and we have no suggestion that he’s been manipulative or evasive at all,” Diner said. “He’s participated regularly—and I might add, in addition to what Mr. Angel said—he also went back for a re-evaluation last month with Bradford and he got the full support of their medical director there. He’s been open, honest and willing to do anything—he still has our advocacy.”
The Board raised only two concerns and Diner addressed both. One was about the length of time since the incident and the other was about Reinhart’s clinical work.
“We’re addressing issues with his return to practice; the overwork that really got him in trouble to start with,” Diner explained. “I think we have a graduated plan for return to work. It might not, at first include hospital work—but he’s been open to that. I think he’s done a lot of good work. We let people go back a lot quicker than nine months. I think it’s probably time for him to begin that process.
“We’ll approve any return-to-work plan, but at least—in the beginning—that would not include hospital work for at least the first part of that, until he gets his practice reestablished. My understanding is that it’s a very thriving office practice anyway.”
Reinhart received the endorsements from two members of the Board themselves. Pine Bluff’s Dr. Omar Atiq, a professor of Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine, in the Division of Hematology Oncology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in the College of Medicine, the director of the Head and Neck Medical Oncology Service and the Bone Marrow Service at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute and the founding director of the Arkansas Cancer Institute in Pine Bluff, spoke first.
“I’ve known Jeff for a long time, probably 20 or 25 years plus,” Atiq said. “He does an excellent job but unfortunately, he had issues. It appears he’s dealt with them. I know he’s needed down in Monticello because I’ve have patients tell me that. His CEO, Mr. Barrilleaux, who suspended him, or wrote and signed the letter, is here to support him. I think that speaks for him. I hope this all works for him. I’ve never seen bad patient management from him for as long as I’ve known him.
“He also has a strong group of fellow family physicians in town and at Drew Memorial; six or seven excellent physicians who know each other and keep an eye on each other, and I’m hoping they will be a support for Jeff when he goes back.”
After Atiq made the motion to accept the proposal as laid out by Angel and following the unanimous affirmative vote, the chairman of the ASMB, Dr. Steven Cathey, a neurosurgeon from North Little Rock who practices at the Arkansas Surgical Hospital in Little Rock, offered this:
“Jeff, I’ve known you and I’ve known your family for a long time and nobody wants you to have more success than I do.”
Because of the need to train new staff, the Reinhart Family Healthcare has no exact timeline to be back in business, At press time, Reinhart still said it would be between four and six weeks—but the fact is that reopening is closer that at any time in the past nine months, to the obvious delight of his many patients, friends and supporters.
Even though Reinhart won’t immediately have hospital duties, Barrilleaux said, “I am glad for him and his patients that ASMB has reinstated his license. We look forward to his return.”