Investigators suspend Seattle pain center doctor for alleged substandard care

SEATTLE -- The Washington State Medical Commission has suspended a Seattle doctor who runs eight pain treatment centers, alleging "consistent violations of the standard of care."

The Washington Health Department suspended the license of Dr. Frank Li, the director Seattle Pain Centers. There are eight different centers across Western Washington. Although the centers were open Friday, the future of the pain centers is in question. Not only is Li suspended but many of his employees are under investigation.

Becky Kruse is one of 18 patients who died after receiving care from Seattle Pain Centers.

State documents say Kruse died of an acute drug intoxication. She had a cocktail of drugs in her body including methadone and hydromorphone. Family members say Kruse collapsed in the bathroom in April 2013.

“They were all Seattle Pain Center Patients, they all died 31 days of filling their last prescription, they all had drugs in their system,” Washington State Medical Commission Legislative Director Micah Matthews said.

The commission has been investigating Li for about a year. They say Li has been operating all eight Seattle pain centers like a pill mill with little oversight and disregard for patients medical history. Matthews says Li hired inexperienced employees to treat complicated cases.

“It seems clear that this business practices was to generate billings and maximize profits over patient safety,” Matthews said.

Investigators say Li and his team abused the Medicaid system and now nearly 60 medical professionals, including doctors working for Li, are under investigation.

“Scared wondering where am I going to go now I have nowhere else to go,” patient Cynthia Brier said.

Brier says she suffers from chronic back pain and on Friday she showed up for a follow up at the pain center in Olympia.

While the doors are open, she couldn’t receive the same care because Seattle Pain Centers can no longer bill Medicaid. Brier will have to pay out of pocket or go elsewhere.

Twenty-five thousand patients' care is now in jeopardy. Six-thousand of the 25,000 are on Medicaid. Matthews is encouraging all patients to contact their health care provider and primary care physician to make sure they know how to move on.

On Thursday DEA agents were seen leaving the pain center in Renton. A spokesperson for the DEA would not reveal exactly why agents were there.

Q13 News was unable to reach Li on Friday. He has 19 days to respond to the state's allegations.

Li also has a pain center in California.