A D.C. Superior Court judge said this week that a District man charged with misrepresenting himself as a medical practitioner could continue performing routine medical functions as a physician's assistant.
Judge Harry Greene said Tuesday that Earl Kinard, a former medical corpsman in Vietnam and a trained physician's assistant for 13 years, appeared to be the victim of foot-dragging on the part of the D.C. government. The judge also questioned whether federal prosecutors could continue with their prosecution, the first of its kind in the city.
Although the District passed legislation in late 1985 setting up licensing requirements for physician's assistants, Greene said it was still impossible for qualified applicants such as Kinard, who had been practicing for years, to obtain a license because the licensing structure was not yet in place.
Kinard's arrest sent a wave of concern through District health organizations that regularly depend on physician's assistants.
The 45-year-old Kinard was arrested April 24 after he treated an undercover investigator from the Office of the Corporation Counsel for a cold and wrote a prescription for cold medication. The prescription form was signed by a doctor who also worked at the Southeast clinic, but who was never consulted, according to an affidavit submitted by an investigator. The affidavit also said that interviews with other patients at the clinic revealed that they thought Kinard was a doctor.
Over the strenuous objections of the prosecutor, the judge allowed Kinard, who had been licensed in Maryland and graduated from a Howard University program, to return to the clinic where he has worked for 10 years, and said he found Kinard to be competent.
Prosecutor Susan Dohrmann told the judge that regardless of Kinard's qualifications, it was still against the law to work as a physician's assistant in the District and that the licensing procedures had been set up to protect the public.
There are about 18,000 physician's assistants nationwide, and all but three states have some kind of licensing or certification procedure. Until the recent legislation was passed, physician's assistants could practice in the District under the supervision of a licensed doctor without violating the law.
Physician's assistants, most of whom have had some medical background before enrolling in a two-year course, typically take medical histories, give physicals, make diagnoses, assist in surgery and, in some cases, write prescriptions.
The District's effort to license physician's assistants "is becoming inexcusably slow," said Nicole Gara, legislative director of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.
Committee members responsible for drawing up the licensing procedures did not return phone calls yesterday.