ST. PETER — The co-founder of Swine Vet Clinic in St. Peter is to pay a record $77,500 penalty after being reprimanded by the state.
Under an agreement with the Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine, Timothy Loula must pay the penalty and follow a series of corrective actions.
Julia Wilson, executive director of the Board of Veterinary Medicine, said no one on the board can recall a larger penalty being paid by a vet. The high amount reflects concerns about the potential risk to the food supply over the way Loula handled certificates of veterinary inspections.
“Vets are asked to examine animals to make sure they can be shipped, particularly between states, because you don’t want contagious diseases being spread,” she said.
“They are to check the animal, fill (out the certificates) and then sign them. In this case Dr. Loula signed many before he looked at the animals or had his wife sign them.”
His wife, Ruth Loula, is also a veterinarian at the clinic.
In a written statement to The Free Press, Timothy Loula said the clinic “is committed to high-quality veterinary care and is a world-leading swine veterinary practice.
“Last month, we resolved a complaint, originally filed in 2015, ... which was submitted by a partner who eventually left the organization. The factual allegations related largely to record-keeping and clerical accuracy. No allegations involved the quality of care we provide to pigs,” Loula said.
He said the clinic, which has 15 swine veterinary consultants on staff, has “always been about continuous improvement, whereby we seek to learn, understand and implement new processes or ideas where they are applicable and feasible. We have identified areas where we were able to strengthen our practice by using technology and changing some of our documentation procedures, when appropriate.”
The complaint said Loula authorized his wife to sign his name on the certificates of veterinary inspection and on his prescriptions, which isn’t allowed by the state. Loula also had pre-signed certificates that were then completed by office staff.
The board also said that at times “prescriptions did not specify quantity or refills, and provided for unlimited refills (and) lacked information required by statue.” The board said he also prescribed medications that were not approved for use in swine.
The board said Loula’s medical records didn’t consistently contain information required by the state.
The state inspected the clinic in June 2016 and found concerns about unlicensed individuals performing compounding of medications, inaccurate expiration dates, inadequate tracking of inventory and inadequate verification before dispensing medications.
Under the order issued June 12, which was signed by Loula and the board May 13, he must take continuing education on medical records and ethics and on compounding medications for use in food animals.
After the continuing education, the board will select five hog farms Loula serves and have a third party review all medical records for those sites to check for compliance.
If Loula fails to comply with any of the orders, the board could take further disciplinary action, including a temporary suspension of his license.