Ex-Georgia hospital CEO, board member sentenced on federal charges

John Michael Gowder, former CEO of Union General Hospital in Blairsville, Ga., has been sentenced to prison more than a year after he was convicted on 102 counts related to illegally obtaining more than 15,000 doses of prescription pain medication for no medical purpose, according to the Department of Justice

Mr. Gowder was convicted in October 2019 alongside James Heaton, MD, after a two-week jury trial.

According to information presented at trial, Dr. Heaton illegally prescribed hydrocodone and oxycodone to Mr. Gowder from 2012 through June 2015. Of the more than 15,000 hydrocodone and oxycodone pills Dr. Heaton prescribed to Mr. Gowder during that period, only six of the prescriptions were recorded in Mr. Gowder's patient file.

Mr. Gowder filled the prescriptions at pharmacies in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina to try to conceal the large numbers of pills Dr. Heaton prescribed him, according to the Justice Department.

Dr. Heaton was convicted on the same counts as Mr. Gowder and another 27 counts of issuing prescriptions for hydrocodone, oxycodone and methadone to two female patients outside of the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose.

The Justice Department said Union General Hospital's former emergency room director and board member David Gowder, MD, has also been sentenced for illegally dispensing opiates outside of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose. He pleaded guilty in March 2019. 

Mr. Gowder was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, Dr. Heaton was sentenced to six years and Dr. Gowder was sentenced to one year and six months in prison. 

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