By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
A local physician who stands accused of molesting patients under his care has agreed to voluntarily relinquish his license to practice medicine in Florida. Allegations against Dr. Homer L. Kirkpatrick, Jr., first surfaced this past July in the form of an open letter that appeared in a newsletter published by the People With AIDS Coalition. The letter referred to an unidentified "Doctor Scumbag" who was said to have fondled AIDS patients during office visits.
Kirkpatrick was mentioned by name in a New Times article ("Bad Medicine") on September 29, and less than a month later Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration issued an emergency order detailing five "findings of fact" A separate incidents of alleged sexual misconduct. The order imposed severe conditions upon Kirkpatrick's continued medical practice, pending the physician's response to the accusations. "Dr. Kirkpatrick presents an immediate and serious danger to the health, safety, and welfare of the public if allowed to practice medicine in an unrestricted manner," the document read in part.
By voluntarily relinquishing his license and promising to never again practice in Florida, Kirkpatrick is neither admitting nor denying the incidents related in the order. Had he wished to dispute the "findings of fact," however, he could have done so by requesting a formal hearing. Kirkpatrick's agreement with the agency, signed by the doctor March 30, must still be approved by the Board of Medicine at its next meeting, which is scheduled to begin June 9.
Attorney Andrew T. Geritts, who represents Kirkpatrick in the matter, did not return several phone calls seeking comment. Kirkpatrick reportedly has left the state. Soon after the Agency for Health Care Administration began investigating him last summer, he was dismissed by the management company that owned the SW 37th Avenue clinic where he worked.
Ezequiel Lugo, a former patient of Kirkpatrick who last fall described his experiences in New Times under the pseudonym "Jordan," dismisses the agreement as "a little arrangement" between Kirkpatrick and his Florida colleagues.
"How would you feel if you were the victim and you find out that all the guy had to do was say, 'Okay, here's my license,' and that's it?" Lugo asks indignantly. Although the agreement is considered a disciplinary action and as such will be reported to the Federation of State Medical Boards and the National Practitioner Data Bank, state regulators cannot prevent Kirkpatrick from seeking a license in another state.
Lugo says he has decided to reveal his name because he feels Kirkpatrick has taken advantage of his patients, many of whom were drug users or homosexual males. He alleges that in May 1994 the doctor masturbated him on at least one occasion and attempted to perform oral sex on him while he was recovering from an operation at Miami Heart Institute.
Lugo reported the incident to Miami Beach police six months ago, after the New Times article was published. "I didn't think anyone would believe me," he says, explaining why he waited so long to file a complaint. Since then, Lugo says, his misgivings have been confirmed: For months the detective with whom he'd spoken did not return his phone calls. When he finally heard from her a few weeks ago, he says, she requested that he come in and make another statement.
Laura Uriarte, an assistant state attorney handling the case, maintains that Lugo's report is being investigated to see if criminal charges can be filed. Uriarte says police are having trouble tracking down Lugo and other victims.
"I'd be happy for the chance to speak to someone from the State Attorney's Office," Lugo responds. "But emotionally it takes a little piece out of me every time I have to backtrack over the same ground. I just hope I'm still around when justice is really done.