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Doctor, 85, going to court in effort to retain license

By MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader

October 11. 2017 11:46PM
Dr. Anna Konopka poses in her examination offices next to her house in New London on Monday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Dr. Anna Konopka, the New London physician who is scheduled to be out of business this Friday, has gone to court to win back the medical license that she claims the state Board of Medicine pressured her to surrender last month.

Konopka, who is 85, filed a hand-written complaint last week in Merrimack County Superior Court and was working Wednesday on a request for an emergency hearing. Last month, Konopka voluntarily surrendered her license, fearful the Board of Medicine would move to immediately suspend it.

Under the terms of the surrender, Konopka has until Friday to discontinue seeing her patients.

“Everybody’s upset. My patients are so upset they are crying. Men are crying,” Konopka said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, it is becoming apparent that medical officials moved against Konopka because of her inability to use the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. Last year, state medical officials enacted regulations that require physicians who prescribe opiates and other addictive medicine to register with the PDMP and check online to make sure patients are not receiving opioids or other addictive drugs from other doctors.

Konopka said she is not good with a computer and she finds the 2016 regulations that cover opioids confusing.

But she insists that her patients abide by pain contracts as required by regulations. And Konopka said she eventually finds out about abuse, either through pharmacists, other physicians or patients themselves.

“Patients watch each other,” she said.

Initially, the New Hampshire Medical Society raised some concerns about regulations that cover opioids and the mandatory use of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. But the organization now helps its physician members to comply with the regulations, said James Potter, executive vice president.

“Unfortunately, we tried to warn people, they (the Board of Medicine) will try to pick somebody out and make an example of them,” he said.

As far as he knows, Konopka is the only physician in the state in such a predicament, Potter said.

Potter said the regulations don’t require physicians to access the PDMP themselves, and a physician can delegate the work to an assistant.

He stressed that the Medical Society will work with members, especially small practitioners, to meet the requirements. He does not fault the Board of Medicine for its actions against Konopka.

“That’s their job. Their job is to protect the safety of patients,” Potter said.

Konopka provided the Union Leader with letters from 11 patients who wrote on behalf of their physician.

They extolled her bedside manner, her knowledge of medicine, her patience and her low charges.

Connecticut resident Susan Grace Nagel said she drove her children 170 miles for appointments with Konopka.

“No distance could keep me from getting my children the best care I could possibly find,” wrote Nagel, a registered nurse.

New London naturopath Gillian Martlew wrote that Konopka diagnosed a cardiac condition in his mother that other physicians failed to find.

“She is of an era when medicine was driven by a passion to heal, rather than by HMO regulations,” Martlew wrote.

Several sent copies of their letters to Gov. Chris Sununu. Konopka said she has tried to speak to Sununu but been denied five times. She can’t understand because his family sends her Christmas cards every year.

“This is a matter between Dr. Konopka and the New Hampshire Board of Medicine,” said Sununu spokesman Benjamin Vihstadt.

When new patients visit Konopka, she said she often reduces the amount of pain killers they use. But she does not eliminate them entirely.

“If people have pain they can’t control, they have blood pressure problems, immune system problems, everything is messed up. Bureaucrats, they can’t understand that,” she said.

mhayward@unionleader.com


Courts Health New London