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Some Oklahoma prison doctors, medical staff have less-than-spotless backgrounds, records show

Some doctors and other licensed medical staff working for the Oklahoma Corrections Department have less-than-spotless pasts, public records show.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: October 6, 2012 at 2:18 am •  Published: October 8, 2012

Numerous doctors and other licensed medical staff working for the Oklahoma Corrections Department have less-than-spotless pasts, public records show.

Many former prison medical staff had checkered histories, as well.

The group includes doctors with long struggles with substance abuse, a physician assistant disciplined for writing fictitious prescriptions and a former high-ranking official who left the state after allegations of sexual harassment were made by three female employees.

Such medical professionals, those with checkered pasts, commonly work for state agencies such as the state Corrections Department, said Lyle Kelsey, executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision.

“Sometimes, doctors that have been disciplined by the medical board and allowed to keep their medical license have a tough time finding employment,” Kelsey said. “Due to the discipline, physicians may also find they are unable to be included as network providers on insurance programs.”

Kelsey said these realities often force doctors and other medical staff to find jobs working for the government. Medical professionals with disciplinary records also work at the state Department of Veterans Affairs and medical facilities at Fort Sill, a federal installation.

Disciplined in the past

Several medical professionals currently employed by the state Corrections Department have been disciplined for substance abuse in the past — some of them multiple times.

Joel B. McCurdy, a medical doctor, is a regional supervising physician at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington.

McCurdy, who isn't the only doctor with a history of substance abuse at Joseph Harp, tested positive for alcohol at least five times in 2005 and 2006, according to a complaint filed by the licensure board.

The complaint shows that McCurdy was treated at a rehabilitation facility three times between 2001 and 2006. He lost his medical license in 2006 and didn't get it back until late 2009, when he began working for the state Corrections Department.

McCurdy remains on indefinite probation, according to board records.

Another medical doctor with an extensive history of substance abuse is Ross Lane Fisher, who also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in 2003.

Fisher, who is classified as a lead physician at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center, was arrested a second time on a drunken driving complaint in 2005.

Fisher nearly lost his medical license in July 2006, but was instead placed on five years' probation. He successfully completed the probation in July 2011.

Joseph Balogh, also a medical doctor, has not been cited or disciplined by the state licensure board, but the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs took action against him in 2010 after he admitted to being addicted to drugs on an application to renew his narcotics registration with the bureau, documents show.

The order from the bureau shows that Balogh admitted in 2009 to being addicted to pain medications, and that he had been using cocaine “recreationally.”

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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