Charges: Doctor used cocaine, let employee prescribe medication

GETTYSBURG (AP) — A Pennsylvania doctor is accused of treating patients while high on cocaine and other drugs and letting her office manager prescribe highly addictive opioids to patients she hadn’t examined.

The state attorney general’s office filed criminal charges against Dr. Rita Harrison last week. A grand jury investigation found that Harrison showed “reckless indifference” to her patients. The probe determined that she pre-signed about 100 prescriptions and sometimes failed to show up for scheduled appointments. Court documents allege that staff members were allowed to perform the duties of a doctor.

Harrison’s practice, Battlewound Healthcare near Gettysburg, provided patients with powerful narcotics, including Suboxone, a drug that can be used to treat addiction to other pain killers.

The state attorney general’s office says it was tipped off in August 2016 when one of Harrison’s patients tried to fill a prescription but was notified by a pharmacist that it had been filled out improperly. The pharmacist told police he was unable to get in contact with Harrison. Another doctor who had been treating some of Harrison’s patients said she’d been on sabbatical for a month.

Another patient tried to fill a prescription supposedly signed by Harrison in November 2016. The patient told investigators that she had received the prescription from Harrison’s office manager, Robin Bridgman. She said she had been to Bridgman’s home several times to pick up prescriptions without seeing Harrison.

Investigators searched Bridgman’s home, discovering blank and pre-signed prescriptions, along with various patient files and paperwork from the practice.

Some of Harrison’s former patients alleged that her behavior changed around 2015, when she stopped showing up for routine appointments.

One of Harrison’s former employees said Harrison admitted taking the sedative Klonopin, cocaine and her husband’s Percocet pills, a narcotic. Another said that she suspected that Harrison was using drugs as early as November 2015, saying her appearance “deteriorated.” She organized an intervention after Bridgman found that Harrison’s husband had put a fentanyl patch on her.

Investigators say Harrison had seen patients earlier that day.

Harrison, 60, and Bridgman, 55, were jailed Feb. 1 on drug charges. Harrison has since posted $100,000 bond and been released.

Harrison’s defense attorney, Geoff McInroy, said it’s too early to comment on the case.