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Jeff and Norine Maurer of Peru are both on long-term disability — he from back problems, hers with her neck — and relied on Dr. Constantino Perales for prescription pain relief.
Monday, Perales was arrested on state drug charges (federal charges are pending) and is being held on $1 million bond. The FBI also seized Perales’ medical records
Tuesday, the Maurers began calling around for a new doctor — and calling, and calling and calling. No physician in the Illinois Valley, they say, will take their case.
“I’d say we’ve called at least 25 doctors,” Jeff Maurer said. “It’s either they aren’t taking new patients or, unfortunately, they don’t write prescriptions for controlled substances.”
Norine Maurer said no one has come out and said they won’t take Perales’ former patients, but she’s come away with the impression they are unwanted. The closest she came to getting an appointment was from a Princeton clinic that agreed Wednesday to see them; the next day, however, they called back to cancel without explanation.
“I’ve broken my neck twice, so yeah, I’m in pain,” Norine said, with tears welling. “I’ll be out of meds this evening. My only plan was to go to the emergency room until I can find a doctor.”
Joe Jurkas of La Salle said he’d been seeing Perales for 20 years. His prescriptions included Vicodin, which he used for pain resulting from service in Vietnam, a series of car accidents and a long career breaking up fights as a prison guard. He, too, cannot find a doctor willing to take him.
“There’s no sense to it all,” Jurkas said. “Perales (allegedly) did the crime and we’re doing the time. They just left us hanging and nobody will take you.
“I’m going to have to go to Chicago to the VA hospital because nobody’s going to take me around here,” he said, indicating it’s just wrong for patients to have to suffer. Perales also was seeing former addicts trying to treat their addiction with opiate blockers. Brian Ninis of Minonk said he has been clean five months thanks to a costly program available through Perales. He, too, is having trouble finding another provider without a substantial up-front fee and without Perales’ charts.
“One doctor in Champaign wanted $500, and that was just to walk in,” Ninas said. “And they don’t want to take me because I don’t have any medical records.
“I’m fine, because I’m in recovery. But there are others out there who are new in recovery, and when they run out, they’re going to run out and use street drugs.”
Local hospitals are stepping in to try and assist the unknown number of ex-Perales patients whose pharmaceuticals are running out, have pressing medical needs or who simply cannot get their hands on their charts.
“Dr. Perales’ legal problems are causing a hardship for his patients, who have been suddenly and unexpectedly cut off from their primary care physician,” Illinois Valley Community Hospital spokesman Gene Vogelgesang said in the joint statement for IVCH of Peru and the Hygienic Institute, La Salle.
“Based on the large number of calls IVCH, the Hygienic Institute, and our physician network have received this week, we know that many of Perales’ patients have immediate medical needs,” he said. “IVCH, the Hygienic, and our physicians are together trying to accommodate these patients. IVCH and our aligned physicians are actively playing a part in helping these patients who, through no fault of their own, have been put in a very bad situation.”
Later Friday, Vogelgesang said on Tuesday hospital officials intend to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office to see what can be done to at least get copies of vital records to the many concerned patients of Perales who have been calling doctors affiliated with IVCH. Earlier in the week, an FBI spokesman said patient records would be copied to any patient who submits a request in writing, while emphasizing the records are voluminous and will need weeks or months to sort.
However, Jurkas said he called the FBI and was flatly told there were no such contingencies in place, “and was as rude as can be.”
The woman who took his call said he’d have to personally appear in Chicago with a photo ID — a condition the FBI had not disclosed to the NewsTribune — and then only after the records have been sorted and prepared for release.
The FBI did not return a call Friday seeking clarification on which information was correct.
Posted: Saturday, August 31, 2013
Article comment by:
What IVCH is not disclosing is that I have called them seeking advice on how to get a doctor and they blindsided me as well. They offer NO help. They turned me down cold as fast as the doctor offices.
The FBI does state that you have to go to Chicago to collect your records personally and it will be 60 to 90 days before they are ready. A written request is mandatory.
Meanwhile, I have medical conditions that need to be monitored, prescriptions that need to be refilled and no doctor. Some of these meds are for life threatening conditions. Where do I go? No one will see me?
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