Caring or Careless?
By By Robbie Byrd, Staff Writer
Abruptly, Dr. Frances Salter paused mid sentence, took a look around with a big sigh and said quietly, "As long as I maintain my honesty and my integrity, I know that everything will be fine."
After nearly seven months of being banned from practicing medicine, Salter will go before the state Medical Licensure Commission today and Thursday to confront allegations that she has violated five separate counts of state law while she was practicing medicine in Atmore.
Dr. Salter, a native of Brewton, was suspended from practicing medicine October 25, 2001 after nearly six years of being a licensed physician in the state of Alabama.
The Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners ordered an investigation into her practice in early 2001 following complaints from local unknown sources including some in the medical profession.
Salter expressed some concern over the length of time between her license being terminated and her hearing, but said she did not believe it was unusual.
Her suspension has left a void for many of her patients.
According to public legal documents from the Medical Licensure Commission, Salter is being investigated for the following:
and "being unable to practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety to patients by reason of illness, inebriation, excessive use of drugs, narcotics, alcohol, chemicals or any other substance, or as a result of any mental or physical condition"
Salter denies that any of the allegations are true.
The Medical Examiners Commission presented documents to Salter and the Licensure Commission, a copy of which was obtained by The Atmore Advance, with evidence against Salter listing 10 separate incidents, both documented and from interviews with witnesses, that the Medical Examiners Commission claims validate its charges.
One of the incidents noted in the report alleged that a toxicology report performed on Salter turned up positive for prescription drugs:
According to Dr. Arthur Spiro, an emergency room doctor at Atmore Community Hospital, said that benzodiazepines are a common class of drugs used to treat anxiety disorders. Spiro said that some common drugs included in that category are Valium and Xanax.
Several other incidents alleged in the report claim that Salter was at times seemed confused and forgetful.
According to the report, several "physicians practicing at ACH have expressed their concern over (Salter's) medical judgement as well as her prescribing practices. Furthermore, the same physicians do not believe Dr. Salter's conduct conforms to the high standard of care demanded of physicians practicing in the State of Alabama" and other "hospital staff have observed (Salter) completing histories of physicals and discharge summaries without seeing patients."
Dr. Salter again says that the allegations weren't true, chalking them all up to rumors.
Even though Salter contends the allegations are harsh and untrue, she said that sometimes it's easy to get downhearted.
Salter attended Pollard-McCall School until 10th grade, when she transferred to T.R. Miller High School. She worked at McMillan Hospital in the accounting department, before she decided to pursue her medical degree.
Salter was 32 when she started school for her bachelor's degree at University of South Alabama in chemistry and biology.
She graduated from medical school in 1984 after attending USA and began her internship in Selma. She stayed there for three years, and then returned to Escambia County.
She opened her own practice in Atmore shortly after leaving Selma, and has been practicing family medicine in Atmore up until last October.
Salter's hearing will begin tomorrow morning and last through Thursday. It is unclear when the board will return its decision.
Salter is concerned and unsure of what she is facing, but is confident that in her years of practicing medicine she has always done "the right thing."