Doctor accused of misusing vaccines

Updated:

Channel 2 Action News has learned the one-time head of the state medical board who now works for another state agency had to repay the Georgia Medicaid program $135,000 because of a billing dispute.

Channel 2's Richard Belcher has found two clinics run by Dr. Runette Flowers are also the subject of a new investigation that could be far more serious.

The inspector general for the Department of Community Health told Belcher the allegations could lead to a criminal investigation.

Whether it will has not yet been decided, Belcher said.

At issue now are allegations that Flowers' clinics used vaccines intended for Medicaid patients for private patients instead.

The website for Flowers' south DeKalb Pediatrics revealed she's a former member of the state Board of Medical Examiners, which certifies physicians in Georgia.

The board told Belcher Flowers is now an adviser to the board.

Record show Flowers is a part-time physician for the state Department of Juvenile Justice, where's she's earned more than $200,000 over the last 26 months.

State officials said Flowers has two active clinics: one on Candler Road in Decatur and a second in Conyers.

According to records provided to Channel 2, Flowers agreed to pay $135,000 last year to settle a dispute over alleged Medicaid overpayments of nearly $850,000 to her Decatur clinic.

Early this year, state authorities notified Flowers that her two clinics had been accused of misusing stocks of state-provided vaccines that are intended for Medicaid children.

According to the state, an anonymous whistle-blower had said some of those vaccines were used for private patients instead.

State officials notified Flowers her clinics were the subject of a fraud and abuse investigation.

Her clinics in Decatur and Conyers were both suspended from the vaccines for children program and remain on suspension, state officials said.

Rob Finlayson, the director of the Office of Inspector General for the state Department of Community Health, told Belcher, "If we suspect fraud, this will be referred to the Medicaid fraud unit. We'll know within six to eight weeks."

But Finlayson said if it's an administrative investigation, that "would take significantly longer."

An attorney for Flowers, Wade Copeland, said the doctor was not stern enough with her staff and that any errors with the vaccines were caused by a former employee who has "vowed repeatedly to destroy Dr. Flowers' practice."

Copeland blames last year's billing dispute on errors caused by other physicians in Flowers' practice.

To read Copeland's full response to Channel 2 Action News, click here.