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Friday, April 10th, 2009

Coroner back to work after alcohol treatment

By Shelley Grieshop
Mercer County Coroner Dr. Timothy Heinrichs is back on the job after complying with terms of the State Medical Board of Ohio for an admitted alcohol problem.
Following a hearing by the medical board on Wednesday, Heinrichs' medical license was reinstated and he immediately returned to his position as county coroner. In his absence, Dr. John Naveau served as interim.
Heinrichs, 55, of Celina, told The Daily Standard on Thursday he will begin seeing patients again on Monday. He has shared a practice with Naveau in Coldwater for many years.
Heinrichs has not actively practiced medicine since Nov. 17, according to the medical board. He also had relinquished his privileges to practice medicine at Mercer County Community Hospital, Coldwater, where he formerly served as physician representative to the board of governors.
Joan Wehrle, executive staff coordinator for the state medical board, said Wednesday's action was based on Heinrichs being "deemed capable of practicing according to acceptable and prevailing standards of care," as long as treatment and monitoring conditions are in place.
The license reinstatement is subject to specific probationary terms, conditions and limitations, she added.
In late December, the medical board temporarily stripped Heinrichs of his license to practice medicine and perform surgery for a minimum of 90 days. The action was based on an incident in January 2008 at Mercer County Community Hospital, Coldwater. According to the medical board, Heinrichs was under the influence of alcohol while performing on-call duties on Jan. 11, 2008, at the hospital. He reportedly was called by hospital staff to treat a baby who was delivered by caesarian section due to an irregular heartbeat. Co-workers and the patient's family claimed Heinrichs smelled of alcohol.
Although the board notes that no adverse clinical outcome resulted from the incident, the hospital replaced Heinrichs for further on-call duties that weekend.
In November, the board ordered Heinrichs to receive an evaluation at a hospital in Newark and days later he entered the facilities' alcohol treatment program.
In order to be reinstated, Heinrichs had to undergo treatment for chemical abuse/dependency and provide the board with evidence of successful completion. He also had to submit two written evaluations from treatment providers, agree to provide annual progress reports to the board for two years and follow several other mandates within the contract.
Terms of the agreement are in effect for at least five years, Wehrle said. If Heinrichs fails to comply, he risks further action by the medical board.
Heinrichs has served as the county coroner for more than a decade and was re-elected to the position in November after running unopposed. His new term ends in 2012.
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