MANATEE — A controversial Ellenton pain clinic is not only facing a newly created stiff application process from Manatee County to continue to operate here, but the business is also dealing with the abrupt exodus of one of its two doctors.
But neither issue had 1910 Medical Clinic owner Warren K. Gold worried during an interview with the Bradenton Herald in his office on Friday.
“We aren’t going anywhere,” Gold said.
His office is doing everything by the book in treating patients, he claimed.
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“I don’t see any reason why we will not be able to get a permit from the county,” Gold said. “That’s what our attorneys tell me.”
The need for a permit is the product of a moratorium on pain clinics passed unanimously by Manatee County commissioners last week, in an effort to combat so-called “pill mills” that have popped up throughout the state. The uptick in fatal prescription drug overdoses — dubbed by law enforcement as an epidemic — could top the crack cocaine scourge of the 1980s.
1910 Medical Clinic has become the poster child for rhetoric on the issue in Manatee County. Protesters, ranging from drug abuse specialists to mothers who have lost children to overdoses, first picketed the clinic when it appeared on Manatee Avenue in Bradenton.
City politicians quickly picked up on the protests, with Bradenton councilwoman Marianne Barnebey calling operations in the clinic “legalized drug dealing.”
The clinic came to Bradenton from Tampa, where Gold had friends who brought him into pain clinic management, the Herald has learned. Gold met John Lanning, a doctor from Anna Maria working at the Tampa Pain and Injury Clinic.
At age 75, Lanning no longer wanted to make the drive north to practice. So Gold said he offered to open the clinic in Bradenton if Lanning would work as his doctor. Lanning accepted and is listed as medical director in the Florida Department of Health’s permit of the clinic. In April, that permit was part of a package submitted by Gold as application for a Bradenton business tax, which was granted.
By May, protesters gathered outside the business, calling it a “pill mill” and pointing to its out-of-state clientele with license plates from Kentucky, Ohio and Georgia seeking prescriptions.
Changes at pill clinic
Amid the protests, Gold relocated 1910 to U.S. 301 in Ellenton, just north of Haben Road, in a strip plaza at the entrance of the Plantation Bay neighborhood. The plaza was already zoned for medical use, so no permitting with the county was necessary, and the Manatee Health Department has no oversight because the clinic created no biohazard, said health department spokesman John Burns.
But after the move, things fell apart with Lanning. A relative Friday said Lanning did not want to comment, but claimed he left because of “unethical practices” going in the clinic.
On Friday, Gold said the opposite. He accuses Lanning of operating in an unethical manner in his office, writing prescriptions for patients he did not examine, and accepting fake MRIs — all practices Gold claims Lanning did behind his back.
Gold said Lanning took all of his patients’ files and quit working at the office when he was confronted. A local pharmacy also informed Gold that Lanning had written a prescription on a 1910 script after he quit, Gold said. He said he plans to file a complaint with the Florida Department of Health and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
Lanning’s departure left only Dr. John B. Quick Jr. practicing at the pain clinic. Since Lanning’s departure, Gold said, he has filed for a change to his permit with the state health department to Quick’s name.
Several requests over the past two weeks by the Herald seeking information on 1910 from the Florida Department of Health went unanswered. But public records show Quick has been practicing medicine since 1965 and has a clean record with the agency. Quick is also licensed to practice in North Carolina and California.
Lanning’s departure brought frustration to some patients who showed up Friday at 1910 and found they had to pay $280 to start all over with Quick. One Gainesville man pleaded for Lanning’s phone number so he did not have to begin a new file, but was rejected by the clinic’s staff.
Permitting process begins
The county’s new moratorium on pain clinics mandates that most existing clinics must apply for a permit under the new emergency ordinance. In the discussion leading up to the vote Tuesday, 1910 Medical Clinic took the spotlight as residents protested its existence, leading County Commissioner Ron Getman to call the clinic harmful to the community.
Law enforcement did not mention the clinic in a speech of support at the commission meeting, but Sheriff Brad Steube said Friday that 1910 is being “monitored” by his agency. He declined further comment.
Also at the hearing, a tenant in the strip mall told commissioners the clinic is hurting her business, saying dubious clientele linger in the parking lot throughout the day. Getman said he wanted county administrators to contact the landlord to offer help in evicting the clinic. The St. Petersburg owners of the plaza, Edwin and Thomas Parsley, could not be reached for comment.
In response to Getman’s call to contact the landlord, County Attorney Jim Minix assured the commissioner that the permitting process would deal with 1910 Medical Clinic.
Under the new ordinance, clinics have 30 days from Tuesday to file an application, and permitting will go through county code enforcement, which will be empowered by the ordinance to conduct inspections of all clinics that apply. Applications will be available for clinics this week, said Manatee Deputy County Administrator Karen Wyndon.
Code enforcement, according to the ordinance, will be able to consider whether a clinic accepts major medical insurance, whether the owner is a physician, and whether the practicing doctor is board certified in pain medicine.
Gold — who lives in Lutz, in Hillsborough County — only takes cash, and Quick holds no specialty certifications, according to his department of health profile. Also, Gold says he is the owner of 1910, and he is not a doctor. Gold, however, is not listed as the registered agent with the Florida Division of Corporations. A Tampa man named Christopher Jordan is the listed agent, and he could not be reached for comment.
Regardless, Gold is eager to submit an application for a permit.
“I tried to get one this week, but they weren’t ready,” he said.