DETROIT (WOOD) — Dr. Robert Alexander, whose Muskegon abortion clinic was shut down for alleged unsafe and unsanitary conditions, took a job last year running a taxpayer-funded STD clinic in Detroit.
Target 8 confronted him outside the Detroit office last week. He resigned the next day, effective immediately, clinic officials said.
Alexander is facing new state charges of incompetence and negligence over conditions of the Muskegon clinic. He refused to comment last week. He covered his face with his coat, shut his car door and drove away.
State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Lawton) said Target 8′s investigation is raising questions about why the state Department of Licensing and Regulation (LARA), which polices doctors, hasn’t pulled Alexander’s medical license.
“This man is really a danger not only to women, but to all patients he sees,” Schuitmaker said. “The evidence is clear that he should not have a license, and it’s only a failure in the system that really allows him to still practice today.”
Target 8 found him working as a physician treating patients at the Detroit Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinic on Woodward Avenue. It is operated by the non-profit, but publicly funded Institute for Population Health that now acts as the city’s public health department.
Alexander’s former office manager, who said she worked for him three years, said she wants to know how he got a job.
She also said she wonders why the state Attorney General, which filed the latest charges of incompetence and negligence, hasn’t interviewed her. She said it was her complaint to Michigan Right to Life that led to those allegations. She is identified in state records as his office manager.
She told Target 8 about alleged botched abortions, re-used needles, unsanitary conditions, an ultrasound machine that didn’t work.
“I don’t know how he still has a job,” she said. “I don’t know how he still has a job. I don’t. I don’t know how any one would hire him because it’s hard enough for me to get a job and I just worked for him.
Alexander, 59, had faced earlier allegations of botched abortions in Muskegon that put women’s lives at risk, but those were dismissed by the state Board of Medicine without investigation.
A Target 8 investigation last year revealed the chairman of that board, Dr. George Shade, who ordered the complaints dismissed, once worked as Alexander’s mentor after Alexander got out of prison for selling illegal prescriptions.
The Target 8 investigation led the Michigan Senate to pass legislation that requires three board members to review allegations against doctors and requires board members to disclose conflicts of interest.
Target 8′s findings, Schuitmaker said, also raise questions about the state’s latest investigation into Alexander.
The state Attorney General’s Office in November filed charges of incompetence and negligence against Alexander over conditions at the Women’s Medical Services clinic he ran at 863 E. Apple Ave. in Muskegon.
His longtime office manager, who said she worked at the Muskegon clinic for three years, said nobody from the state has interviewed her.
If the state AG called her, she said, she would have a lot to say.
The woman, who didn’t want to be identified, said she worked for Alexander until his office was shut down in December 2012. Alexander performed an abortion on her several years before she started working for him, she said. She said she contacted Right to Life of Michigan in June 2012 — six months before the closing — after finding Alexander at a sink filled with used needles.
“He was cleaning them and he was getting ready to re-use them on women, to give them medication,” she told Target 8.
She said she saw him use one of those needles on a patient.
In recent years, the clinic was open only on Saturdays, with Alexander performing nine to 15 abortions on a typical day, the woman told Target 8. He charged less than others — about $377 plus $150 for medication, she said.
The clinic, she said, was often unsanitary, with blood on walls and equipment.
“That’s typical. As soon as he was done with a procedure, he would have it on his hands, he would touch the walls, he would walk all over.”
Records show the woman worked as Alexander’s nurse, even though she was never licensed as a nurse.
She acknowledged performing nursing duties, including giving shots, despite not having a license.
The woman said the clinic’s ultrasound equipment stopped working about 1.5 years before the office closed, leaving Alexander guessing how far along his patients were.
“So he would just do a vaginal exam, and you know, guess that way,” she said.
The woman said she also witnessed botched abortions.
“There were quite a few that had to go in and get a D&C (dilation and curettage), some of them had to be hospitalized, a couple of them had to get a complete hysterectomy,” she said.
In the latest AG complaint accusing him of incompetence and negligence, Alexander blamed his office manager, identifying her by name.
He said the woman “told him she was a licensed practical nurse but he failed to verify her credentials,” records show. He also said it was her job to clean the office.
The woman denied misrepresenting herself as a nurse and said cleaning was not her job.
State LARA and AG officials refused to comment because of the pending case against Alexander.
It was a break-in at the Muskegon clinic, still unsolved, that led police there in December 2012.
Inside, the city found blood on the floor and walls, uncovered buckets of unidentified fluids in the operating room area, blood dripping from a sink p-trap in a patient room, biohazard bags on the floor and closets, unsecured containers of used hypodermic needles, unsecured medication and patient records scattered around the office, according to records.
By that time, Alexander already was working at Detroit’s Institute of Population Health (IHP) as a subcontractor — a job he started in October 2012, IHP officials told Target 8.
Sen. Schuitmaker said she doesn’t understand how Alexander got that job.
“My question to them is, ‘Did they do a thorough investigation?’ Certainly if you Google his name, I’m sure these stories would show up, so why did they go ahead and hire him? It’s a question in my mind,” Schuitmaker wondered.
IHP hired him in July 2013, according to the agency’s spokesman, Frazier Kimpson. Kimpson said IHP was aware of Alexander’s criminal background when it hired him, but did not know about the Muskegon clinic, the prior allegations of botched abortions, or the legislation based on his case.
“At the time of hire, Dr. Alexander had a valid license to practice medicine and in addition was a board certified OB/Gyn,” Kimpson wrote in an email to Target 8. “IPH does not provide abortion services, however later we became aware of his background relative to abortion services via a letter and pictures that were sent to our offices.”
However, he wrote, IHP was not aware of the new allegations of incompetence and negligence.