WARNER ROBINS — Mary Fitch of Warner Robins said she expected to meet her obstetrics and gynecology physician Oct. 3 at The Medical Center of Central Georgia to deliver her baby — only to find after she arrived that he did not have privileges there.
“That’s just an extra lot of stress when you’re in labor,” said Fitch, who delivered a healthy baby girl by cesarean section.
Lisette Nelson of Perry shared a similar story in which she said she didn’t learn Dr. Paul Harnetty of Warner Robins wasn’t going to be able to deliver her baby boy until late in her pregnancy.
The women, with the help of Warner Robins attorney Kelly Burke, have filed a complaint with the Georgia Composite Medical Board against Harnetty, saying the physician “abandoned” them.
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Since the complaint was filed Oct. 15, Burke said he has talked with 10 other women who were under the care of Harnetty and didn’t find out he couldn’t deliver their babies until shortly before they were due. Most did not find out until they went to the hospital to deliver their babies, Burke said.
Reached by telephone Thursday, Harnetty said, “My attorney has advised me not to comment, but I steadfastly deny that I abandoned any patient.” He declined additional comment, including releasing the name of his attorney.
Representatives for Houston Healthcare, which operates Houston Medical Center and Perry Hospital, and for The Medical Center of Central Georgia and Coliseum Health System confirmed Harnetty did not have privileges at the hospitals but declined to elaborate why.
He also was disassociated from Cornerstone Medical Associates, which, according to its website, is a physician-owned and physician-controlled medical group that provides medical billing services.
An unsigned letter from Cornerstone Medical Associates to patients, which Burke provided to The Telegraph, states, “This letter is to inform you that as of Oct. 25, 2010, Dr. Paul Harnetty is no longer associated with Cornerstone Medical Associates.”
The letter gives no explanation for the end of the business relationship and instructs patients how they can obtain their medical records whether they choose to stay as patients of Harnetty or transfer to another doctor.
Susan Sanders, chief executive officer for Cornerstone Medical Associates, could not be reached for comment.
Burke said the state medical board is investigating the complaint, and the two women who made the original complaint have been interviewed. Burke said he expects the board’s investigator will interview the other women as well.
The Georgia Composite Medical Board offices were closed Thursday for the Veterans Day holiday. The agency’s website showed no public orders issued against Harnetty.
Burke said the complaint was filed because the women wanted other women to know Harnetty did not have privileges to deliver babies at hospitals in Houston or Bibb counties in case they also were expecting him to deliver their babies.
Burke said he also is looking into whether any of the women experienced complications because of the alleged abandonment. All 12 of the women delivered healthy babies, and none of the babies was delivered prior to reaching a hospital, Burke said.
Harnetty’s office also was closed Thursday. A recording at the doctor’s office at 304 Margie Drive indicated the office would be closed for the Veterans Day holiday until Monday.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.