AUSTIN (KXAN) — Seeing a physician during the pandemic is already challenging, but local patients say their longtime doctor suddenly retired, leaving them scrambling for medical records and prescription refills.
When Bill Eastman needed a refill this summer, he called the office of Dr. William Moran, whom he had been seeing as a patient for more than a decade.
“I called and tried to make an appointment, but the phone was disconnected,” said Eastman.
Dr. Moran is still listed as having an active license on the Texas Medical Board’s website. He reported to the board he’d been practicing medicine for 31 years.
Other patients showed up to his office for appointments in the weeks to follow and saw a note on the door.
“Office is closed down due to Dr. Moran’s retirement,” the sign read. “Sorry for any inconvenience.”
The note included a phone number patients report as disconnected.
“Retiring without giving us any notice is very much unlike him,” said Eastman. “I don’t know what happened.”
Frustrated reviewers on social media detailed their struggle to get their medical records from the practice. One said Dr. Moran “abandoned his patients overnight.”
Patient Steve Oleson told KXAN he also needed an appointment to get a new prescription.
“We had no information at all,” said Oleson. “I was worried a little bit about him, whether he had some health issue or something.”
With patients hearing nothing, we tried to reach Dr. Moran as well.
We started at his Austin office on 35th Street, where a neighboring office told us they were told about his retirement, but the move was abrupt and happened in the span of a week. The office told us patients who are still seeking medical records should contact the custodian of records at this email address.
We tried to reach out via email but never got a response, so we called a cell phone number listed for the doctor.
A man who answered wouldn’t identify himself as Dr. Moran. When we asked about the retirement situation, the man said, “I’m not interested in talking to you about that, but thank you.”
The Texas Medical Board, which licenses physicians, requires them to notify the board within 30 days of retirement or relocation. A spokesperson for the board said Moran did notify them.
However, TMB also has requirements for doctors notifying patients. This includes posting prominent signage in their office at least 30 days prior to retirement. The board also requires doctors to notify patients where to get medical records. Board rules also state patients seen in the last two years should get a letter or email.
With regard to charges for medical records, fees shall not exceed $25 for 25 pages of paper records or 500 pages for electronic records, according to the Board. Other state and federal laws may apply in determining charges for medical records.
Eastman said he made a complaint about Dr. Moran’s abrupt retirement to the Texas Medical Board.
“If he tries to get in practice again, hopefully he won’t be able to,” said Eastman. “He does deserve to retire, just not the way he did it.”
More on the board’s enforcement process can be found here.
“If TMB receives a complaint and a violation verified following an investigation, TMB utilizes sanctions guidelines in disciplinary matters,” said a board spokesperson. “The potential sanction will depend on a number of factors including consideration of any aggravating or mitigating circumstances.”
The spokesperson added: “If a physician’s license is in an active status, they may still be subject to disciplinary action.”
Retirements and returns
Under the Texas Medical Board’s COVID-19 response, retired physicians in the state are being encouraged to reapply for licensure. This applies to those who the board placed on official retirement status in the last four years.
At this point, 47 physicians have reactivated their license under the COVID-19 disaster response process.
We also asked TMB if more physicians retired in the last 18 months than usual, due to the stress of the pandemic. The TMB spokesperson said we’d have to make a public information request for retirement numbers, but even then it would be hard to know the reason for each retirement.
“It would be hard to ascertain a reason for an increase in retired or non-renewed licenses, whether it was due to COVID, more physicians reaching retired ages or some other reason,” said the spokesperson.