Doctor on probation for smoking pot at hospital

TONASKET — A doctor caught smoking marijuana at a Tonaskset hospital is on probation for five years, and must comply with a substance abuse monitoring program.

William “Bill” L. Dienst, 54, was smoking pot in his call room at North Valley Hospital while awaiting test results for a patient in February 2011, according to findings released Wednesday by the state Department of Health.

Dienst declined to comment.

A family physician and emergency room doctor, Dienst has not worked at the hospital since the incident, a hospital spokeswoman said. A Washington State Medical Commission attorney said he does not know if Dienst is currently working as a doctor.

Dienst has been licensed in Washington since 1988, and was medical officer on a ship that brought food and medical supplies to Palestinians on the Gaza Strip in 2008, breaking an Israeli blockade that had been in place since 1967.

According to the November findings made public this week, he admitted to using marijuana as a sleep aid while on call during 24- to 48-hour shifts some five to 10 times over the years.

A few days after he was caught by police and hospital administrators, he entered an inpatient treatment program for substance abuse, and has been in compliance with a five-year monitoring program since his release in May 2011, state Medical Commission findings state.

Commission attorney Larry Berg said Dienst’s actions were found to cause no or minimal patient harm, and a minimal risk of harm.

Dienst later acknowledged possession of 0.2 grams of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in Okanogan County District Court, and has since satisfied conditions of a deferred finding, the Commission findings said.

Under his agreement with the Medical Commission, Dienst must pay a $2,000 fine and comply with his monitoring contract with Washington Physicians Health Program for five years from his 2011 release from the treatment facility.

He also must ask the health program to submit quarterly reports to the Medical Commission, and appear before the Commission and present proof that he’s complying with the order.

Dienst is required to notify the medical staff director or CEO of any hospital or clinic where he works of the Commission’s order, and complete a course in medical record keeping.

Reach K.C. Mehaffey at 509-997-2512 or Read her blog An Apple a Day or follow her on Twitter at @KCMehaffeyWW.


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