[Hpn] let's all play doctor!

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Sat, 10 Feb 2001 17:10:21 -0700


Posted at 11:45 a.m. EST Friday, February 9, 2001

Homeless man passed as physician in Jacksonville hospital

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- (AP) -- A homeless man who describes himself as a
drifter is facing two felony charges for passing himself as a doctor at a
Jacksonville hospital.

According to a prosecutor, Gary Sterley spent several days as ``Dr. Joshua
Caldwell'' at St. Vincent's Medical Center last March.

Authorities say he not only acted like a doctor, but he even wrote a
prescription for a patient and made a house call.

St. Vincent's wasn't the only Jacksonville hospital that Stearley entered, a
prosecutor said Thursday.

``He was also at Baptist hospital at the same time, but it's not clear
whether he saw any patients at Baptist,'' Assistant State Attorney Ernst
Bell said.

In a court appearance Thursday, the 27-year-old Stearley was silent as his
public defender pleaded innocent on his behalf to charges of practicing
medicine without a license and representing himself to be a physician's
assistant at St. Vincent's.

If Stearley is convicted of the third-degree felonies, he could face up to
five years in prison on each count. He was being held Friday in the Duval
County Jail on $100,000 bond.

In March, authorities said, Stearley wore hospital scrubs at St. Vincent's
and entered its emergency room area with a rescue team.

The imposter, they said, talked with a patient in the emergency room, wrote
a prescription and visited him at home to follow up.

He is also accused of writing a prescription for the controlled substance
Darvocet for the patient's mother.

St. Vincent's officials think the man was able to get a temporary hospital
badge by telling security officials that his was lost, marketing director
Kim Deppe said.

Hospital officials aren't sure how many days he was there before they became
suspicious of him. He left town soon after.

Although Stearley visited the medical library on the second floor and the
smoking area outside, hospital officials don't believe he had contact with
any other patients.

``We don't have any evidence that he was examining a patient,'' Deppe said.
``He wasn't touching patients.''

Hospital officials have since started a new badging system, have heightened
awareness of security and are considering other measures, she said.

A few months after his appearance in Jacksonville, Stearley was arrested in
Pennsylvania when officials with Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh discovered
that his claims of being a physician's assistant trainee were not true.

Pittsburgh police conducted a computer check to see if there were any other
reports of similar incidents in other parts of the county, and found

Authorities say the man has pulled similar stunts at hospitals in Washington
state, Virginia, and Washington.

Copyright 2001 Miami Herald

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