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Prescription for disaster?

September 23, 2005

Let's hope Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is more scrupulous in pursuing terrorists than he is errant doctors who examine police officers.

Take the case of police surgeon Dr. Lea Dann, assigned to the 14th medical district at the department's Robert E. Thomas Medical Center in Corona.

Dann, who was licensed to practice medicine in 1978, also maintained a practice at 7 Piper Court in Roslyn, which is also her home. In 2003, she was charged by the state's Office of Professional Medical Conduct with "negligence on more than one occasion" and "incompetence on more than one occasion."

Specifically, she was charged on eight occasions with failing to perform adequate physical examinations of patients with multiple sclerosis or with Parkinson's disease, and with prescribing drugs for them without "adequate medical indication."

On Dec. 10, 2003, she accepted a plea bargain, pleading guilty to "ordering excessive tests or treatment not warranted by the condition of the patient and failure to maintain accurate records."

She was placed on two years' probation.

Here now is where things become confusing.

According to state rules, Dann, a board-certified internist, could continue to practice medicine only when monitored by a board-certified licensed physician in an appropriate specialty. According to those rules, the doctor-monitor is proposed by the doctor on probation, in this case, Dann.

Sources who asked for anonymity say the person Dann proposed - and whom the state accepted as her monitor - is Dr. Eli Kleinman.

Kleinman, a board-certified internist and hematologist, is also the chief supervising surgeon of the NYPD.

Whether Dann is continuing her private practice and if so, whether Kleinman is monitoring it, is unclear.

Rob Kenny, a spokesman for the state Health Department, said he believed Dann was working only for the NYPD.

The state's medical directory for 2005-06, published by the Medical Society for the State of New York, continues to list Dann on Piper Court.

What is clear is that for the past two years, Dann has continued to examine police officers, without cops or their union representatives knowing of her probationary status.

"This is the first I have heard of this," said an official of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association who is familiar with medical matters and asked not to be identified.

Department officials, including Kleinman, refused to comment. Dann did not return messages, but through a secretary said she would report this reporter to the department's chief of personnel.

A department official who also asked for anonymity said: "It's not as bad as it looks. She wasn't fined. She wasn't suspended from practicing medicine. She is only charged with faulty record keeping."

David and Goliath? The city's barely functional Civilian Complaint Review Board cannot operate without the support of the NYPD, which, through an addendum to the city charter when the board was founded in 1993, requires the department to cooperate in police misconduct probes.

That support has been, at best, reluctant. Recently, for example, the department removed the CCRB's access to the arrest database, Booking Arraignment and Disposition Inquiry System, known as BADS, which is essential to its investigations. The department's stated reason was the database contains information about sex offenders not in the CCRB's purview.

But in a rare instance, perhaps because this is an election year, the department - i.e., Kelly - has reversed itself. The issue was resolved by the mayor's criminal justice coordinator, John Feinblatt, who drafted a memorandum of understanding that the department is expected to sign.

Persuading Kelly to reverse what for him is a minor issue is one thing. With the mayoral campaign now in full swing, perhaps Feinblatt, or maybe even Mayor Michael Bloomberg, can prevail on Kelly to reverse a policy dearer to his heart but that violates the city charter?

That is Kelly's refusal to allow top brass to be questioned by the CCRB about alleged police misconduct during the Republican National Convention. More than 1,800 people were arrested then and not one was convicted of a felony.

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© 2005 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.