The founder of Valley Veterinary Clinic in Rainier has agreed to surrender her veterinary license June 1 following a state investigation into complaints about her veterinary care.
Dr. Jule Plummer, a Colorado State University graduate who opened the clinic in 1975, provided service for large and small animals throughout Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington, according to the clinic's website. She did not return calls seeking comment.
By state law, the Oregon Veterinary Medical Examining Board is prohibited from releasing any information about the type or number of complaints, said Lori Makinen, the board's executive director. However, it's extremely rare for the board to revoke a veterinarian's license or request its surrender. This is only the third time that's happened in five years, Makinen said, adding that the board receives hundreds of complaints a year.
"The bottom line for the board is there's a minimum standard that has to be met," she said Thursday.
The eight-member board is comprised of five veterinarians, two citizens and a certified veterinary technician.
At least for now, Plummer may continue to practice in Washington, where her license remains active. However, Plummer has two open cases against her that the Washington Veterinary Board of Governors is investigating, according to the state Department of Health. In the meantime, the board may not release any information about the cases.
State veterinary boards report to the National Disciplinary Database, which notifies each state in which the disciplined veterinarian has a license, Makinen said. Even if another state decides to "piggyback" on another state's disciplinary action, it must follow some form of due process, she said.
Friday, Valley Veterinary Clinic manager Brenda Potter said she was "irritated" that news of Plummer's April 7 agreement with the veterinary board had been leaked before June. Plummer had not yet informed her staff or the clinic's four other veterinarians because she was waiting for "the right time," Potter said.
Plummer has been trying to sell Valley Veterinary Clinic for five years and planned to retire soon. For now, she is only handling a few large animal cases because she is the clinic's only large animal doctor, Potter said.
According to the veterinary board documents, the board found the complaints against Plummer were found to be valid and violated the Veterinary Practice Act, which sets out minimum standards for diagnosis and treatment. Under Oregon law (ORS 686.130), the board may revoke or suspend a veterinarian's license for "gross ignorance, incompetence or inefficiency in the profession" or "unprofessional or dishonorable conduct."
Other disciplinary sanctions available to the board include probation, reprimands, community service, civil penalties and placing limits on a license.
Potter refused to discuss the complaints against Plummer.
"That's nobody's business. That's strictly between her and that board," Potter said. "She chose to do this (surrender her license) rather than tying up two-plus years of court time to fight it."
The board's documents say Plummer agreed to surrender her license in June, stop practicing veterinary medicine and refrain from mentoring interns or consulting on veterinary cases in Oregon. Plummer, who waived her rights to a contested case hearing and judicial review, also agreed not to reapply for a veterinary license.
The only other public document the board released about Plummer was the final order from a 2007 disciplinary case, the only other time Plummer had been disciplined. The board fined Plummer $1,000 for "failure to use generally accepted methods of diagnosis and treatment without good cause," plus another $1,000 to cover administrative costs.
According to the board, in October 2007, a client brought in a dog suspected of having a broken jaw after being accidentally hit with a baseball bat. Plummer treated a previously diagnosed cut on the dog's gums and sent the dog home without performing X-rays. The owner took the dog to another clinic, where X-rays revealed a jaw fracture, according to the case document.
Friday, the head of the Humane Society of Cowlitz County was surprised to hear about the Plummer losing her Oregon license. The Humane Society has relied on Plummer's care for several years in cases with horses and cows, he said.
"I wouldn't have thought," Executive Director Rick Johnson said. "She's always been an asset to the Humane Society. ... We've always been able to contact her. She's been very courteous, able to figure out what the problems are and give us a good answer. ... She's been great."