- Associated Press - Friday, December 26, 2014

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - Medical officials continue working to assist several thousand patients in finding help after a suspended doctor closed a chain of pain centers in northeastern Indiana last month.

The Indiana Pain Center locations closed after the Indiana Medical Licensing Board ordered a 90-day suspension of Dr. William Hedrick’s medical license on allegations of over-prescribing pain medications.

Dr. Daniel Roth, medical director of Summit Pain Management in Fort Wayne, said it has received about 1,500 phone calls and 1,000 primary doctor referrals for former Hedrick patients.

“So, we have been working very long days, up to 14 hours,” Roth told The Journal Gazette (http://bit.ly/1ro516j ).

The closing of the Fort Wayne-based Indiana Pain Center affected an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 patients, according to the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health.

Hedrick, who operated a dozen clinics in eight cities, told the state medical board in October that a suspension of his license would likely force his business into bankruptcy. His attorney told the board that a pain management expert who was auditing Hedrick’s files believed he was treating patients properly.

Melinda Landis, 62, said she went to the Indiana Pain Center seeking help for pain she was suffering after undergoing four surgeries in four years. She said she was terrified about losing her pain medication when Hedrick’s clinics closed, and that many other doctors didn’t want to deal with his former patients.

“For many of us, we were not doing anything illegal or drug-seeking behavior or whatever,” she said. “I mean, I saw people in those offices that definitely needed pain medication.”

Many primary physicians and pain centers are reluctant to accept additional patients because of the new state rules regulating how and what they can prescribe, said Phil Hutson, assistant director of the Bowen Center, a mental health facility.

That is particularly a concern “where they feel that sometimes there has been an over-prescription,” Hutson said.

Many Fort Wayne-area doctors who are now seeing the impact of the Indiana Pain Center closings.

“People are running out of their meds and need to be seen soon,” said Dr. Deb McMahan, the Allen County health commissioner. “Unfortunately, our primary care doctors are also being hit with an early and intense flu season.”

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Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net

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