State allows doctor on medical board probation with series of malpractice claims to keep license

State allows doc with deaths, lawsuits to practice

DENVER - When Marlene Politzer fractured  her back and pelvis, her family thought the 80-year-old would recover quickly.

"She was writing letters, friends were visiting," said her daughter Cathlynn Simonak. "She was active but just using a walker."

But within two-weeks, Politzer, who was on a 30-day Antarctic expedition when she fell, went from recovering to deathly ill.

"She stopped eating, she stopped drinking," Simonak said. It was a "very quick decline. Explosive diarrhea which they later diagnosed as c. diff."

C. diff is an intestinal infection that is rarely fatal when it is caught early.

Simonak blames Dr. Stan Worley for failing to treat the illness that led to Politzer's death, according to the family's lawsuit. But what Politzer's family didn't know at the time was that Worley has had a decade of state medical board sanctions, has been named in  numerous complaints to the board as well as several  malpractice lawsuits.

Worley was the physician for several patients who were injured or unnecessarily died, according to state and court records.

"I had looked into this doctor and was appalled at how many complaints there have been against him, how many malpractice suits, the fact that he was on probation," Simonak said. "We were unaware."

"I do blame the doctor for his neglect," Simonak said of an allegation included in her lawsuit against Worley.

State records also show Worley has been on probation since 2002 for neglect and mismanaging patient care, like the death of Frank Andrade. The probation includes having another doctor monitor Worley's care of patients.

Andrade's family said the State Board of Medical Examiners should have stopped Worley from practicing.

"I think his license should have been taken away -- not been put on probation. Not for all the things he had ignored as far as my dad's health," said Andrade's daughter Rachael Belmudez. 

Andrade's family lost their court case, but medical board records show his case was one of the reasons for Worley's current probation.

Marschall Smith, the medical board program director, said the board addresses individual complaints and lawsuits and not a pattern of problems.

"We don't have a 'three strikes and you're out' rule," Smith said. "We don't have an eight strikes or a 10 strikes. Every case that's filed with the board is investigated completely by the board and then they make a decision based on that particular case."

Patients say that when a doctor has repeated complaints, the medical board should act to protect patients.

"I don't understand why they would not have revoked his license even before he treated my mother," Simonak said

Simonak filed a complaint after her mother died, but the board did not publicly sanction Worley for Politzer's death.

Another agency, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, did find substandard care at the facility where Politzer was staying after Simonak filed a complaint following her mother's death, state records show. In response to the complaint, the health department found failure to assess and monitor a patient and control an infection.

While CDPHE does not cite doctors, Worley was the physician treating Politzer before the illness that resulted in  her death, Simonak said.

"Do you think Dr. Worley should be practicing medicine in the State of Colorado?" CALL7 Investigator John Ferrugia asked.

"I don't think Dr. Worley should be practicing medicine at all, anywhere," Simonak said.

Smith said the board is abiding by state rules.

"We have at least eight cases in the State of Colorado where he provided sub-standard care people were harmed," Ferrugia said. "He's still got his license. Why?"

"Well, it's not that they're looking at one plus one plus one equals eight," Smith said.

Worley declined to talk about the issues when we caught up with him outside a Denver nursing home.

"You've been on probation close to 10 years," Ferrugia said. "Do you know who Marlene Politzer is?

"You'll have to talk to my lawyer," Worley said.

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