An aerial photo taken in 2014 shows the current South Peninsula Hospital campus. (Homer News file photo)

An aerial photo taken in 2014 shows the current South Peninsula Hospital campus. (Homer News file photo)

After complaints, state board finds Homer physical therapist didn’t violate regulations

Two complaints made against a physical therapist at South Peninsula Hospital to the state’s licensing board for therapists have been reviewed and closed. An unidentified board member found the therapist did not violate statutes or regulations governing the practice.

Therapist Douglas Westphal was placed on administrative leave from the hospital in December 2017 following allegations made by several female staff members of the rehabilitation department that he had acted inappropriately. The women alleged Westphal, who at the time was director of the department and their direct supervisor, had bullied, sexually harassed or otherwise harassed them at work.

Following an internal hospital investigation, Wesphal returned from his administrative leave and went back to work as a physical therapist, but is no longer the rehab department’s director. That’s a position he had served in since 2009.

One former patient alleged Westphal had touched her inappropriately during a physical therapy session in 2009.

That woman, Lora Wilke, filed a formal complaint against Westphal to the Alaska Board of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy. So did occpational therapist Sarah Bollwitt, one of Westphal’s former employees who was among those making allegations. Bollwitt transferred out of the physical therapy department and into home health.

Both women got letters dated Dec. 7 from an investigator with the physical and occupational therapy board informing them their complaints had been reviewed by a board member and their cases closed. Both letters were sent to the Homer News.

Investigator Autumn Roark wrote in the letters that “there was no indication of a violation(s) of the statutes and regulations that govern the practice of physical and occupational therapy in the State of Alaska.”

In each case, this determination was made by one of seven members of the board who reviewed the respective inquiry. In regard to Bollwitt’s complaint, Roark wrote that the reviewing board member determined the alleged violations were an internal hospital personnel issue that had already been addressed.

Neither case advanced to an official investigation phase. The Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing process for a complaint is for it and information gathered in an inquiry to be reviewed by a single board member. The complaint only moves into an official investigation phase if that board member determines there was a violation of statutes or regulations.

In an email to Bollwitt provided to the Homer News, Roark wrote that the board can’t give out the name of the member who performed the review, saying that information is confidential. The members who sit on the physical and occupational therapy board are: Robert Calhoon, an occupational therapist from Anchorage; Jennifer Carlson, a physical therapist in Fairbanks; Ruth Kostik, a public member in Juneau; James Parietti, a physical therapist in Chugiak; Keith Poorbaugh, a physical therapist in Palmer; Mari-Margaret Tydingco, an occupational therapist in Sitka; and Enlow Walker, a physician in North Pole.

Both Wilke and Bollwitt said they had no comments about the outcome of their complaints.

Derotha Ferraro, South Peninsula Hospital spokesperson, said hospital administration were pleased to get the news of the complaint results.

“We take complaints seriously and support an outside regulatory body looking into unusual allegations,” Ferraro wrote in an email. “We appreciate the state investigated (sic), and are happy with the outcome.”

According to a search of Westphal’s physical therapy license on the state licensing website, there are not currently any agreements, actions or accusations associated with his license. Those are all different outcomes that could come from an investigation into a complaint against a physical therapist.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

More in News

The Swan Lake Fire can be seen from above on Monday, Aug. 26 on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Alaska Wildland Fire Information)
State lifts burn suspension

Residents may now obtain permits for burn barrels as well as for small and large-scale brush fires.

A chart produced by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services shows four risk factors in being infected by COVID-19. (Graph courtesy Alaska Department of Health and Social Services)
17th Alaskan dies of COVID-19

There were 23 new positive cases of COVID-19 announced Tuesday.

Noah and Eddie Land of Grace Acres Farm in Kasilof set out produce Tuesday, July 7, 2020, at the Farmers Fresh Market at Kenai Peninsula Food Bank. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Freshness time 2

DoubleUp program helps seniors, families eat healthy

In this July 20, 2013 file photo, several thousand dipnetters converged onto the mouth of the Kenai River to catch a share of the late run of sockeye salmon headed into the river in Kenai, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion file photo/Rashah McChesney)
Dipnetters banned from retaining kings

Dipnetting on the Kenai River opens Friday.

The entrance to the Kenai Peninsula Borough building in Soldotna, Alaska, is seen here on June 1, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Application period for borough relief funds begins Monday

Borough residents can apply for these grants July 13 through July 24.

A young volunteer chases three piglets named Mary Hamkins, Petunia and Sir Oinks-a-lot through a race during the pig races at the Kenai Peninsula Fair on Friday, Aug. 16, 2019 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Kenai Peninsula Fair canceled this year

Cotton candy, carnival rides and racing pigs will have to wait for… Continue reading

COVID-19. (Image CDC)
State reports 30 new cases; hospitalizations reach new high

The cases include 28 residents and two nonresidents.

photos by Megan Pacer / Homer News 
                                A youth rider takes a turn riding a bull calf during the 60th annual Ninilchik Rodeo on Saturday, July 4 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik. The rodeo lasted throughout the July Fourth holiday and celebrated a return to the event’s roots.
Riding high in Ninilchik

Ninilchik Rodeo celebrates 60 years with events new and old.

A closed sign is posted at a retail store shuttered due to the new coronavirus, in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna to vote on relief funds for businesses, nonprofits

CARES Relief and Recovery Grant funds would be rolled out in two phases.

Most Read