A Grand Saline physician is awaiting trial in a West Texas controversy that Tuesday found the Winkler County sheriff guilty of retaliating against two nurses who filed state complaints against the doctor.
The controversy stems from complaints two Winkler County Memorial Hospital nurses filed with the Texas Medical Board against Dr. Rolando Arafiles Jr. in June 2009. Attempts to reach Arafiles were unsuccessful as of Tuesday night.
On Tuesday, a Midland County jury convicted Winkler County Sheriff Robert Roberts on all six counts of misuse of official information, retaliation and official oppression, according to the Texas attorney general. Arafiles and the Winkler County attorney face third-degree felony charges of retaliation and misuse of official information in connection with two West Texas nurses’ complaints.
After Arafiles’ Dec. 21 arrest, he left Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Kermit and found a job as a physician at Cozby Germany Hospital in Grand Saline, about 40 miles northwest of Tyler. He was hired through a private group, not the hospital, said Patty Vasquez, acting administrator at Cozby Germany Hospital.It was not clear when Arafiles came to Grand Saline.
Ms. Vasquez said the hospital checked Arafiles’ background prior to adding him to the staff.“I’m aware of the charges; that’s all I care to say,” Ms. Vasquez said.
Arafiles and County Attorney Scott Tidwell have denied wrongdoing, according to The Associated Press.
The controversy started in June 2009 when two nurses filed anonymous complaints against Arafiles to the Texas Medical Board. Authorities said that once the doctor learned the medical board was looking into a complaint filed against him, Arafiles went to the Winkler County sheriff and asked him to investigate who sent the letter, according to the AP.
The two nurses, Anne Mitchell and Vickilyn Galle, wrote to the state medical regulators detailing their concerns about Arafiles, including his alleged use of herbal remedies and attempt to use hospital supplies to perform at-home procedures, according to the AP. They claimed he was unethical and risking patients’ health. The women were fired from Winkler County Memorial Hospital and charged with misuse of information, a felony. Ms. Mitchell was acquitted, and charges were dropped against Ms. Galle.The Texas Medical Board reprimanded Arafiles for providing false information to the board, failing to maintain confidentiality of a patient, attempting to contact a complainant of witness regarding an investigation, administering a drug or treatment that was nontherapeutic in nature and failing to treat a patient according to the generally accepted standard of care, according to information the board released in February.
To keep his license, the medical board requires Arafiles to complete the clinical competency assessment, have a physician monitor his practice for 12 monitoring cycles, pass the medical jurisprudence exam, complete 16 hours of continuing medical education and pay a $5,000 administrative penalty, according to that board information.
On Tuesday, Roberts, who has been sheriff for 20 years, was sentenced to four years felony probation on two counts each of misuse of official information and retaliation. He will serve 100 days in jail on each of the four felony counts, to be served concurrently and pay a $6,000 fine on four felony and two misdemeanor counts, according to the attorney general.
He will be removed from office by “operation of law” and will surrender his peace officer’s license, according to the attorney general.
Last March, former Winkler County Memorial Hospital administrator Stan Wiley pleaded guilty to related charges after he acknowledged improperly terminating the nurses’ employment after they filed the formal complaints against Arafiles, according to the attorney general. Under the terms of his guilty plea, he was sentenced to 30 days in the county jail.
A human resources employee at Winkler County Memorial Hospital said publicity from the trial has been nonstop but that the hospital is moving forward in a positive direction.
“I work with some wonderful, wonderful people,” she said during a phone interview Tuesday. “We’re going to get through this; that’s the kind of people we are.”
Published June 15
Tyler Morning Telegraph