Blea, Baker Among California Veterinarians Hit With Accusations From Veterinary Medical Board - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Blea, Baker Among California Veterinarians Hit With Accusations From Veterinary Medical Board

Three racetrack veterinarians in Southern California are the subjects of formal “accusation” documents from the state's veterinary medical board saying they violated a series of regulations governing their jobs. Dr. Jeff Blea, longtime racetrack practitioner and equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board, is facing eight causes for discipline; Dr. Vince Baker, practitioner and managing licensee of Equine Medical Center in Cypress, Calif., faces 15 causes for discipline; Dr. Sarah Graybill Jones, a practitioner who works for Equine Medical Center, faces seven causes for discipline.

All three could see their veterinary licenses revoked or suspended, may be required to pay the Board back for reasonable costs of investigation, and/or be ordered to pay fines not exceeding $5,000.

The accusation documents represent the charges filed by the veterinary board. Hearings have yet to be held to determine whether and what disciplinary action may be taken.

The primary focus for much of the accusation documents involves record-keeping, both records of examination and diagnosis ahead of treatment and records of drugs dispensed, including controlled substances in some instances. In several cases, the veterinary medical board accuses the veterinarians of failing to establish a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) per state regulations because it's not clear from existing records that the veterinarians examined horses prior to dispensing medications.

The accusations outline the treatment of racehorses identified only by their initials and in large part, without trainer or owner names attached. The exception seems to be in the accusation document for Baker. As managing licensee of Equine Medical Center, he is considered to have some responsibility for the record-keeping of veterinarians working at the practice. A portion of the accusation document detailed records from other veterinarians at the clinic that seemed to similarly be missing identifying information, examination records, or treatment plans as required by law. In these cases, specific clients (trainers) were mentioned and included Carla Gaines, Doug O'Neill, and Bob Baffert. Baker has long been a key part of the veterinary team treating Baffert's horses, although in the accusation documents the medical board noted it was Jones who administered treatments to two unidentified Baffert horses and later billed the treatments under Baker's name.

The majority of substances listed in the documents are routine and legal therapeutic medications. By the veterinary medical board's legal definition, however, some were considered “dangerous” if they bore the phrase “RX only” on the label. Many, like Lasix, aren't considered by a layperson's definition to be inherently dangerous or exotic. Some of the drugs mentioned however, were also considered by the state to be misbranded because they were produced outside of federal oversight. Thyro-L, the trade name for levothyroxine powder, falls into this category as it is not FDA-approved and was allegedly dispensed by both Baker and Blea. Baker is also accused of using compounded substances from Buy Rite Drugs which were missing best usage dates, as well as Stop Two and EMP Drench, which the board also says fit the state's definition of misbranded drugs.

Some of the records the board considered to be inadequate from Baker's practice were for more tightly-regulated substances like Euthasol and ketamine.

An anonymous tip earlier this year prompted the investigation by the medical board into Blea in February. Blea took over his current role as CHRB equine medical director in June. In Baker's case, the medical board had performed a routine inspection of EMC's mobile unit in August 2019 and noted deficiencies in medical records and drug logs. The board visited the clinic's base in May 2020 and also received an anonymous complaint about Baker and others in February 2021.

Although identifying horse information was excluded in the documents, treatment dates were included. For Blea, they ranged from early 2020 to February 2021. For Baker, the dates ranged from January 2019 to August 2020. For Jones, the dates were concentrated in March 2020.

According to a report from the Los Angeles Times Dec. 23, an emergency hearing in Blea's case is scheduled for Dec. 24. The Times also notes that the position of equine medical director does not require an active veterinary license.

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