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May 31, 2011 7:09 am

EDITORIAL: Hospital should have disclosed doctor’s background

Written by Tessa Schweigert

It was a tough call.

When Powell Valley Healthcare officials hired anesthesiologist Dr. Cory Pickens, they knew he was in recovery for abusing prescription medication.

They were then faced with the difficult decision about how or when to disclose details of his conviction for prescription drug fraud. They could either be completely forthcoming with the information when they announced Pickens’ hiring, or they could keep it quiet and give the new doctor and his family time to get adjusted to the community before releasing details about his past.

They chose the latter. And it was a mistake.

By withholding details about Pickens’ prior substance abuse issues and 2010 conviction for prescription drug fraud — as well as his recovery — Powell Valley Healthcare placed itself in a defensive position for whenever questions arose.

It’s crucial to note that Dr. Pickens is licensed through the Wyoming Board of Medicine, under the condition that he enroll in the Wyoming Professional Assistance Program — which he has done — where he will be closely monitored. He also is licensed through the Montana Board of Medicine.

He is a licensed and trusted doctor, but it was inevitable that the Powell community would find out about Pickens’ past — after all, he practiced in Billings, just 90 miles away. And when Googling his name, a Billings Gazette article about his guilty plea is the first result.

Yes, Powell would find out, but the Powell Valley Healthcare administration had control of how and when — that is, until last week, when an anonymous news tip led the Tribune to details of Pickens’ conviction and past struggle with drug abuse.

In a situation like this, there is no such thing as good timing.

Yet if Powell Valley Healthcare and its new CEO Paul Cardwell had been completely upfront and forthcoming about details of Pickens’ conviction right away, it would have given the public little reason to be suspicious. Unfortunately, now it looks like they were trying to hide something.

As a newspaper, we are not interested in running a smear campaign against Dr. Pickens or the hospital.

Everything we have researched shows Pickens is a good doctor who made a terrible mistake and who is incredibly committed to full recovery.

As an employee at Powell Valley Healthcare, Pickens will be tested four times weekly, and he must present himself within an hour’s time for urine or hair follicle testing. Other policies also are in place at PVHC to ensure that any potential relapse is caught immediately. Pickens also must check in with both the Montana and Wyoming Professional Assistance Programs every day — 365 days a year.

It’s also important to note Dr. Pickens has the confidence and trust of Powell Valley Healthcare’s board and Cardwell, who considered him the best physician for the job out of 10-plus candidates.

Last week in this space, we wrote that Pickens will be a beneficial addition to the Powell community. We still feel that way.

Pickens has undergone strict treatment and has made commendable strides in his recovery.

He has also proven himself to be a skilled anesthesiologist, and we agree with the PVHC administration that Pickens deserves a second chance, especially given where he is today.

4 comments

  • Comment Link June 02, 2011 2:24 pm posted by clipstein

    For once an editoral that made sense and was politicaly correct.....
    What does this show and teach the youth??????? If you are doctor or somebody you can get away with???? Just today as example several said no way in ???? is this hospital going to have me.....I ll die on the way to Billings first.

  • Comment Link June 05, 2011 9:11 pm posted by Jim Cannon

    All who have no sin please feel free to step forward and throw the first stone. Let's give this man a chance at a new start. If you don't know him, don't judge him. The Shoshone Learning Center in Powell has given some great youth in our community second chances when they struggled in school. They are appreciative of this and will go on to have productive futures.

    I work at PVHC and am proud of the organization and administration for standing behind the decision to hire Dr. Pickens. He has great skills as a physician and certainly understands the struggles people face with narcotic medication. He will be a great asset to PVHC and the community.

  • Comment Link June 06, 2011 9:13 am posted by clipstein

    lets things be on equal footing...according to your own rules and regs. do you hire any one who has had a problem with narcotic's?????? Why is there an exception for a doctor..........What is this teaching the youth????

  • Comment Link June 18, 2011 8:41 pm posted by Eva

    And? He's human. Humans make mistakes. Lets try not to judge how he is as a doctor until we have him for our doctor. I don't see him as " getting away" with anything.
    Dr. Pickens, welcome to Powell.

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