Gary P. Kula, psychiatrist at Rusk State Hospital, resigns after warning; was found impaired at work

March 3, 2012

A Rusk State Hospital psychiatrist who had been sanctioned twice for having sexual relationships with his patients resigned Wednesday amid allegations that he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at work.

Gary Paul Kula, 60, resigned one day after being notified that the hospital had begun disciplinary action against him because he appeared to be impaired at work, according to documents from the Department of State Health Services, which oversees mental health hospitals.

Reached at home, Kula declined to comment.

Agency spokeswoman Carrie Williams said that if Kula had not resigned, he would have been fired. She added that the psychiatrist apparently never treated patients while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

"We don't have any reason to believe that," Williams said. "This appears to have been a one-time incident that comes as a surprise to us."

Kula had been under scrutiny by agency officials since December, when the American-Statesman reported that he was among three state hospital doctors with a documented history of sexual misconduct. Kula was disciplined by the Oklahoma and Texas medical boards in the early 2000s for becoming sexually involved with several patients before working at Rusk in East Texas, according to publicly available documents.

On Tuesday, unit Director Jim LaRue presented Kula with a "notice of possible disciplinary action" letter over an incident reported last week.

"It is alleged that on February 14, 2012, at approximately 11:30 a.m., you were found slumped back in your chair in your office on the San Jacinto Unit," LaRue wrote. "Upon initial examination, you were unable to speak clearly or walk and you were unresponsive."

Nine of Kula's co-workers witnessed the incident, including LaRue, the document states.

LaRue's letter does not specify what substance Kula is alleged to have used. But as the basis of the investigation, the unit director cites a work rule banning employees from possessing or being under the influence of illegal drugs, alcohol or inhalants at the hospital.

State officials said they planned to report the situation to the Texas Medical Board on Wednesday.

Kula's departure comes after a trail of documented problems at Rusk State Hospital, where he was hired in 2005. In January 2011, the psychiatrist was suspended for three days without pay for demeaning an aggressive patient, according to disciplinary records.

Kula's personnel file also includes more than a half-dozen notes by supervisors chastising him for "volatile" behavior and for refusing to evaluate several patients that needed medical attention.

Kula is the third doctor to leave the state hospital system under pressure since October.

Another doctor, Alejandro Munoz, was fired from Terrell State Hospital in December after state officials learned he had failed to disclose a decade-old legal settlement that banned him from working at state mental health facilities. Munoz had been sanctioned by the Texas Medical Board in 2004 for having an "inappropriate relationship" with a female patient, a Statesman investigation found.

The third doctor found in the Statesman investigation still works at Rusk and has been routinely evaluated as a good doctor.

Separately, former Austin State Hospital psychiatrist Charles Fischer was fired in November after an investigation by the Department of Family and Protective Services concluded he had sexually abused two teen boys in his care in 2003 and 2006. Fischer has not been criminally charged in that case, is appealing his termination an dhas denied the allegations multiple times through his attorney.

Source: Andrea Ball, "State hospital psychiatrist with history of misconduct resigns,"  Austin American Statesman, February 22, 2012.


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