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Nueces County medical examiner treating patients with drug addictions

Accuhealth clinic.jpg
Posted at 4:58 PM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-17 23:46:54-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Nueces County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Adel Shaker has a second job.

KRIS 6 News has learned Shaker is currently treating patients with chemical dependency and opioid addictions, sparking concerns from Nueces County commissioners who told us they were unaware he was seeing patients until we KRIS 6 News told them.

Shaker has a license to dispense suboxone, which is similar to methadone. It is among the treatments offered at Accuhealth, a clinic off North Staples Street near Six Points.

Shaker Accuhealth.jpg

We spoke to a scheduler at the clinic that Shaker works for and recorded that conversation. We played that recording for each county commissioner, and they were surprised.

"This is the first I've ever heard of him having any outside employment anywhere else," said Nueces County Pct. 3 Commissioner John Marez.

In the recording, the scheduler says Shaker isn't seeing new patients, but is seeing his existing ones.

"My expectations is that we hired him to do a full-time job," pct. 4 commissioner Brent Chesney. "He should do a full-time job."

Shaker's attorney Chris Gale says that Shaker's employment agreement with the county allows him to work outside the county, as long as it doesn't interfere with his work at the ME's office.

"He hasn't been in that clinic for a couple of years, but he is providing services to patients, whether it's by Zoom or telephone," Gale said. "He had informed Judge Canales, and probably some others as well, that he was going to be doing this."

When we asked Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales about Shaker's job outside the ME's office, she said she doesn't recall a certain conversation about Shaker helping patients, but she knows he does.

"If he said 'hey I'm involved with suboxone,' I would have said great because again what we need are more physicians who are willing to treat patients in our community," said Canales.

Nueces County Asst. County Attorney Alexandra Fielder tells KRIS 6 News the agreement to which Gale refers was struck while Shaker was chief deputy medical examiner, an hourly position. Fielder said no such agreement was made when he was made chief medical examiner, which is a salaried position.

Among the questions we had for commissioners: What would happen if Shaker had to perform an autopsy on a patient he was treating with suboxone? Precinct 1 Commissioner Robert Hernandez thinks that's problematic.

"I would think that would be a conflict of interest that, if he's asked to perform an autopsy that might have passed away on something that he suggested," Hernandez said.

Countless autopsies are under investigation by the Texas Rangers and Nueces County District Attorney's Office. A second warrant was served at the office Wednesday, this time expanding the scope of documents seized.

But, this isn't the first time the Nueces County District Attorney's Office has voiced concerns about Shaker's work.

Last October, assistant district attorney Angelica Hernandez told the commissioners court that she analyzed Shaker's autopsy reports dating back to 2018.

"What we're concerned about is the length of time — we are concerned about the quality of the reports," she told commissioners at the time. "We're getting way too many findings of 'undetermined.' "

Hernandez and Shaker appeared before the court to discuss the issues at the ME's office, and the possibility of the county taking on an additional out-of-county autopsy agreement.

"It is a systemic problem with regard with to, even just yesterday, with receiving autopsies that are 5 months old," Hernandez said. "I hope you understand my concern when I hear that there are going to be autopsies performed for other counties, our stomach drop because we already (are) going to indictment without autopsy reports."

Additional concerns were brought to commissioners and Canales in September of last year. In an audio recording made by an employee at the ME's office, obtained and authenticated by KRIS 6 News, Shaker acknowledges the problems in the office.

"You know, I leave the office at 2 a.m.," he is heard saying. " Raul come and leaves and says 'Hey, are you leaving Adel?' and I say 'No, Raul, you just go. I have to finish here.' Every day I know I come late, but I do my job and I exceed the number of hours."

Shaker has told the county he will retire on Oct. 31, but commissioners are asking him to retire sooner.

"My biggest concern is that if you're our medical examiner, your time is short already," said precinct 3 commissioner John Marez. "I can't imagine him having any free time, even for themselves, much less being able to run anything outside. Any other additional medical practices. That's just taking more time that's slowing down results of those autopsies."

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