Apr 2, 2010

DCH sullies the reputation of Howell icon

Those people with no health insurance in Livingston County may have lost a huge asset after the Michigan Department of Community Health (DCH) suspended the medical license of Howell icon Dr. Louis "Pat" May.

DCH officials claim Doc May wrote eight controlled-substance prescriptions after his controlled-substance license lapsed and the department suspended May's medical license March 24. May denies that claim, saying he has not written a prescription since he voluntary gave up his narcotics license in 2008.

May founded the Howell Melon Festival, and the summer festival features “Doc May's 2nd Annual Commemorative Melon Ride 2010.” He also has a city park named in his honor. He has enjoyed his image as a country doctor since the day he received his medical degree from the University of Georgia in 1947 and service in World War II, and he has practiced medicine in Howell for some 60 years.

For at least the past five years, Doc May, 87, has been semi-retired, and he saw patients two hours a day for a small office-visit fee at his office on Michigan Avenue, and for two hours each Sunday morning he saw patients for free. Most of his patients do not have health insurance so he charges what they can afford, and the rest simply do not want to find another doctor. He no longer has his office, and he sees patients in his home, located just a few blocks from his former office. The nearest free medical clinic is in Whitmore Lake near the Livingston/Washtenaw County line.

Doc May is also a big proponent of natural cures, and he can often be found every Sunday morning in warm weather at the Howell Farmer’s Market selling Doc May Therapeutic Soy products.

This is not the first time Doc May has had a run in with the DCH. In 2008 he came under scrutiny for recycling unused drugs to his low-income patients. In January of 2008, Doc May began advertising in a local newspaper seeking donations of used medical equipment and unused drugs. With life-saving prescription drugs costing as much as $200 a pill, Doc May thought it was a huge waste to throw the drugs away.

Doc May agreed to stop accepting drugs, but he continued to accept medical equipment.

Recycling drugs in Michigan is not unprecedented. The Cancer Drug Repository Program allows unopened drugs to be donated to a pharmacy, hospital, nonprofit clinic or health-care professional that elects to participate in the program.

Many people believe the programs should include more drugs for seniors and low and middle-income people. There was a bill in the Michigan House of Representative that would allow all drugs except narcotics to be donated for indigent patients. House Bill 4897 died in House Health Policy Committee and had to be reintroduced. HB 5231 was introduced by Rep. Mark Meadows, D-East Lansing, on Aug 4, and it is awaiting action in the Health Policy Committee.

Doc May said he really doesn’t want his license back, but that he didn't want to lose it like this.