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Former Detroit Lakes RapidCare clinic owner won't contest losing N.D. license

FARGO - The former owner of the Detroit Lakes RadidCare clinic whose North Dakota medical license was suspended last month on charges of improperly dispensing narcotics and unethical billing practices has agreed to have his North Dakota medical license permanently revoked.

However, it's unclear what action the North Dakota Medical Board of Examiners will take.

Dr. Rodney Lee announced in a Thursday letter to a judge who will preside in his licensing hearing Wednesday that he won't appear to contest the complaints made against him.

The single allegation he doesn't agree to, his lawyer writes in the letter obtained by The Forum on Friday, deals with the "prescription, sale, administration, distribution or gift of any drug legally classified as a controlled substance."

Lee did prescribe "narcotic and addictive controlled substances for many patients complaining of chronic pain," says his attorney, John Goff, who adds Lee did that "based upon sound medical judgment and only for therapeutic purposes."

"Dr. Lee does, however, readily acknowledge that some of those patients may have, and probably did, use the controlled substances in ways that were not intended by Dr. Lee, and may, in fact, have redistributed or resold the controlled substances to others," Goff writes.

In the same letter, Lee says he won't contend complaints that he:

- Engaged in conduct that is dishonorable, unethical or unprofessional, and that is likely to deceive, fraud or harm the public

- Continued a pattern of inappropriate care

- Was paid directly or indirectly for medical services not personally rendered by a physician

- Lacked appropriate documentation and medical records for diagnosis, testing and treatment of patients

- Failed to properly monitor a physician assistant.

Lee's letter, though, may not influence what the judge decides and will not preempt Wednesday's hearing in Bismarck, said Duane Houdek, executive secretary and treasurer for the state medical board.

"It's not a matter of us agreeing to anything," Houdek said, in reference to the letter. "If he's not contesting it, the judge will look at the evidence we have. We have to present sufficient evidence that the allegations in our report are supported by facts. And that's what we intend to do."

Lee's hearing will be like a civil trial. The administrative law judge will receive witness testimony and evidence from representatives of the medical board, and will then issue a recommendation to the licensing board.

The board will make the ultimate decision, Houdek said.

Lee operated a string of RapidCare Clinics in Fargo, Moorhead, Grand Forks, N.D., and Detroit Lakes, Minn. He recently sold the clinics to another doctor.

Lee still holds a Minnesota medical license. Ruth Martinez of the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice said action against a medical license in another state does provide basis to take action.

Lee's attorney couldn't be reached Friday, and Lee wouldn't comment on the case.

Instead, Dick Knutson - his "information guy" - answered Lee's phone, saying Lee is awaiting the judge and board's response to his letter.

"We're not making any comment until all that criteria is met," Knutson said.

Houdek said he wouldn't speculate on the hearing's results - which could include revocation of Lee's North Dakota medical license, probation with limitations, imposing fines or taking no action.

Each year, about seven North Dakota physicians face serious disciplinary actions, Houdek said. Of those, two or three opt for a hearing. Most physicians settle allegations by accepting the discipline the board deems appropriate, he said.

In July, the licensing board issued an emergency suspension of Lee's medical license based on evidence presented by an investigative panel of six board members. The board alleged he stored drugs returned from patients in a desk drawer in his Fargo office, kept poor records related to pain-management patients and billed Medicaid under his name for services completed by practitioners whose work receives a lower reimbursement rate.

He also is being investigated by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration for possible mishandling of drugs. The agency seized evidence from the Fargo RapidCare clinic on 32nd Avenue South in June.

In the letter to the judge, Lee's attorney writes that while Lee accepts the revocation of his license, "none of the relevant conduct was done with any intent to harm or negatively impact any patient or the public."